Tear down the cardboard boxes, give them a warning ticket and next time lock them up. Jail is where those homeless, hopeless, hungry people belong. The nerve of them dirtying up our pristine city. The nerve of them detaining people asking for money and food. The nerve of them expecting help from us. The nerve of them getting in a position of needing help. The nerve of them thinking that we will allow them to put a blight on our city with those cardboard boxes after we have been working so hard to make it a representative city that will attract big business and bring in the kind of people who will add to our economy not take away.

Surely, our Rome community leaders would not say these things to the disinherited of our community. This town has a big heart and every year we give out awards to people who have earned the Heart of the Community Award. Surely some of those big hearts will step out and speak up for those hopeless, hungry, homeless people. We are a city with churches on every corner in our town, and surely our spiritual leaders will come together and lend a hand to help with solutions for the situation dealing with the homeless in our neighborhood.

Research has revealed that since the last recession the number of homeless residents has increased greatly across the nation. Several reasons can be attributed to the cause of that increase. Housing costs have increased. We have fewer affordable houses. Technology has grown so increasingly fast, and people have been left behind. Therefore, many do not have necessary skills to perform the job. Salaries have been lagging behind the cost of living increase. Health issues that are not cared for can bring about a very unhealthy population that will be unable to hold steady jobs. I am listing just a few of the health problems facing the homeless population: hypertension, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Missing work regularly because of illness can bring about firing. Being fired, over a period of time, will produce a homeless individual. Transportation is necessary to get back and forth to work. Many do not earn enough money to keep cars in good enough condition to get back and forth to work daily. Cars must have gas, insurance and upkeep.

Many people have to walk everywhere they go unless they beg a ride. Foot problems occur with a greater frequency among homeless people. These include superficial fungal infections and calluses, corns and bunions that are apparently the result of trauma from ill-fitting shoes that might have been picked up from a Clothes Closet. Homeless people also suffer from many dental problems. Reports of poor oral hygiene, cavities, gingival disease and extractions with no prosthetic replacements appear to be extremely common among homeless people. Many employers will not hire individuals with missing teeth.

Lately many people have been labeling the homeless as being mentally ill. That is so wrong. Homeless people are less likely to bring harm to others than the average home owner. The greatest harm is what they bring to themselves.

“Deeply ingrained maladaptive behavior patterns, which usually begin during childhood or adolescence, interfere with a person’s capacity to relate to others, limit a person’s potential, and often provoke counterreactions from the environment. Personality disorders should not be seen primarily as a consequence of homelessness. Rather, because they impair a person’s ability to cope with the demands of life and the expectations of society, they may contribute to the factors that cause certain people to become homeless.”

(From the National Institutes of Health website)

For years many city leaders across the nation have come up with an inhumane solution to the problem. They put the homeless on buses and give them a one-way ticket to other cities. I can only see the humanity in this if the individuals are not local. Many do get away from home and cannot find funds to travel back home. When I worked with the TBC Social Service Ministry most of the homeless that came through were locals who had fallen on hard times. I, along with my helpers, encouraged them to connect with a church family and seek forgiveness from the local family and friends.

Most cities are creating homeless task forces as our City Commission has done to study the problem and recommend solutions to be used by the authorities. With the change of weather coming, solutions for the problem should be forthcoming.

I pray that our winter is not as brutal as our summer has been.

Willie Mae Samuel is a playwright and a director in Rome. She is the founder and director of the African American Connection of the Performing Arts Inc.

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