I get a unique vantage point on occasion when I park at a homeless shelter or day center. Such is the case here in Carlisle, PA where I’m plugged into Carlisle CARES’ drop-in center while I’m doing a few projects here.
My early morning quiet doesn’t last long. Folks leave their night shelter site, in a nearby place of worship, and hightail (walking, no matter the weather) it back to this “home” base to wash up, grab breakfast, and head out to work or school. The murmur of conversation drifts my way as they near the building, ending as the thud of the door slams behind them.
This community does a pretty impressive job of at least providing shelter, with as many services as they possibly can, for hundreds of people a night, including a rising number of families. From what I’ve seen over the past 5 years when I’ve occasionally hung here, Carlisle doesn’t have more resources than the average community, they just have an attitude that people shouldn’t suffer if they can help it.
Housing costs here are, like everywhere, out of sight. Jobs either pay well or not enough. No need to say which ones the homeless folks get. Mental health and other services are scarce. It’s no paradise, for sure. Waiting lists for housing are miles long. (Don’t rush over here to further tax their shelter system.)
People of all ages end up in homeless situations. They stay for varying amounts of time. Some cycle in and out. Most are from the Carlisle area. Volunteers and impressive community support make this program and others work. Scant government help is available.
JOIN US ON JAN. 26, 2016, 7:00 PM, DICKINSON COLLEGE, DENNY HALL, FOR A FILM (MY OWN FOUR WALLS) AND A DISCUSSION ON HOMELESSNESS. FREE. OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. FOR INFO, http://www.carlislecares.org
Winter here, from what I get to see, varies from tolerable (if you are properly dressed and don’t have to stay outside too long) and unbearable. For those who are the most vulnerable, the infirm, elderly, children and babies, they’ve got it extra tough.
Maybe we can’t end their suffering right away, though we are trying. But much can be done by us mere mortals. Suggestions include:
- Provide food.
- Donate warm winter clothing, hygiene products, socks and undies.
- Tell your Congressperson you’re appalled at how much homelessness is in her/his community. Some don’t know. They need to. (Here’s their contact info. HOUSE SENATE)
- Support financially if you’re able.
- Enlighten your peers. Don’t believe the media myths.
- Advocate for better policies. And we’ve got a good bill, the Homeless Children and Youth Act, which needs your help nudging your legislators. Go to www.helphomelesskidsnow.org and TAKE ACTION.
I’d love to hear that the need for these programs and shelters have greatly reduced because people are finding places to live and help that they need. But until then, I’ll let the sound of silence be disturbed by the thudding of doors, at least finding peace that some have a haven…albeit for just a few hours a day.