Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Help homeless take first step on road back:

It was essentially a business lunch, but at one point our conversation became more personal when she shared the circumstances that originally brought her to Manatee County.
"Would you ever guess that I was homeless?"
Across from me sat a successful professional person recounting days of sleeping and living in her car.
Situations in life are many and varied, but those tough "down and out" times give us a higher level of understanding.
During my years in social services, I collected widely diverse examples of houseless, homeless, hopeless, helpless, temporary situations and chronic conditions. I met the Vietnam veteran on the courthouse steps; the battered alcoholic living under the bridge; the lost child searching the dumpster; a mentally ill, highly educated citizen; someone who lost his job; a person just released from jail.
Quite a few can be helped immediately. Others take a lot of time and dedication.
I share this with you today because Manatee County and the city of Bradenton have joined with the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Local decision-makers, business leaders, churches, service providers and advocates came together in 2004 for a community summit titled "Shedding Light on Homelessness."
Hundreds of participants met regularly, ultimately fulfilling the mission "to develop a coordinated plan with input from the public, private and nonprofit sectors of our community to end chronic homelessness."
After months of dedicated hard work, the document was publicly presented in August.
Critical to the goals of transitional and affordable housing, job opportunity, access to treatment and shelter, and coordination of services are these crucially important endeavors: The Community Coalition on Homelessness One Stop Center; We Care (health care procedures donated by a large number of our physicians); Manatee Glens Marchman Program, which will be set up to triage emergency drug and alcohol treatment cases; and the Salvation Army's collaboration with other homeless services in discharging lost souls toward a brighter future.
These are but a few examples in need of community support and better understanding. On Sept. 11, Jumpstart Foundation will meet at Bradenton City Centre with copies of the plan - titled "Voices" - and someone with whom you can talk. On that day, we will once again tackle the major impediments to providing accessible workforce housing and some logical solutions waiting to move forward.
Whether the truly poor are visible or invisible, they are an actual part of the human landscape. And while some people deplore the homeless, others are compassionate - witness the citizens who joined the National Alliance to produce a hard-wrought Plan to End Homelessness. They aren't romantic dreamers. They are caring and realistic.
How did my friend get out of her automobile?
Someone opened a door and helped her take one step at a time.
by Pat Glass in the Bradenton Herald

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