Monday, November 28, 2011

This year, Homeless Persons' Memorial Day affects more of us than ever

'Tis the season when the MSM begins paying attention to "the homeless issue." It has something to do with the holidays, a time when all of us are supposed to be at our warm hearths breaking bread with family and friends. Millions of Americans no longer have warm hearths, no hearths of any kind. Meanwhile, a small percentage (shall we say the 1%) have huge hearths courtesy of taxpayer-funded bailouts and secret loans (see breaking news from Bloomberg News). While the big-hearth boys have the law of their sides, the same cannot be said for the no-hearth folks. French writer Anatole France once made this comment about the law and the homeless:
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread" (from Le Lys Rouge).
Alas, the homeless have always (and will always) be with us.

Last night's CBS “60 Minutes” had a story on Central Florida families living in their vehicles. On most Orlando nights, you can get away with sleeping in your car and not having to use all of your gas on powering the heater. That’s not true in Wyoming.

Most homeless don’t have the benefit of a car. They sleep under bridges and in parks. Sunday's Denver Post had an article about an increasing number of people sleeping out each night on the downtown 16th Street Mall. They bed down under the metal bison sculptures or stretch out under benches. Outreach workers last summer regularly counted more than 100 people per night bunking down at the mall. While a city effort to end homelessness in Denver called Operation Road Home has had some success, the problem continues to grow while federal and state funding continues to shrink.

Some cities accuse Occupy movements of being nothing but homeless encampments, and have used that as an excuse to evict occupiers (the law's "majestic equality" mentioned by France). The Nov. 1 New York Magazine talked about the uneasy alliance between Occupy protests and the homeless, some of whom are more interested in food and shelter than in political statements.

Foreclosures and evictions by big banks have forced thousands of people out of their homes. Drug addiction, alcoholism and mental illness also are a part in the problem. That said, there’s no excuse for people freezing to death out on our streets. Awareness is crucial. More needs to be done. To that end, the Wyoming Coalition for the Homeless sponsors Homeless Memorial Day every year. Here are the details:
Homeless Memorial Day will take place this year on December 21 at noon in front of the State Capitol Building. Recognition of those who died homeless on the streets of Cheyenne will take place with the tolling of a bell by Rev. Rick Veit, St. Marks Episcopal Church. Other speakers will include Virginia Sellner, Director, Wyoming Coalition for the Homeless, Richard McCullough, Crossroads Clinic/Community Action Homeless Outreach Program, Rabbi Harley Karz-Wagman, Mt. Sinai Synagogue. Music will include Christmas Carols and Hanukkah songs. The Wyoming Coalition for the Homeless has sponsored this event in Cheyenne since it beginning in 1990. This is the 22nd Homeless Memorial Day event for Cheyenne and the rest of the country. In the 1980s a small group of cities remembered those who died on the streets but the events were not organized. In 1990 the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council organized the event and began holding memorials on December 21st each year -- the longest day of the year and frequently the coldest day of the year in many communities. A small number of cities participated in the 1990 event and it has grown each year since then. In 2010 there were 141 cities participating and approximately 1,900 homeless individuals remembered.

No comments: