One night at bedtime, when I was about 9 years old, Daddy and I were going to say our prayers. He said, “I’ll pray first and then you can say your prayer.” Among other things he prayed for, Daddy said, “Thank you Father God for this family, and our home, and that we have a warm, dry place to sleep at night.”

That prayer made an indelible impression on me. It made me think. I had never thought of being thankful for having a warm, dry place to sleep at night. At 9 years of age, I thought everybody had a home, a family, and a warm, dry place to sleep at night. Ever the teacher, Daddy probably knew that. He always made everything a teachable moment.

Sleeping under bridges

What, you may ask, got me started thinking about this? I was taking pictures recently, to go with a writing project on which I’m working. There I was, adjacent to Southeastern Mills, taking pictures of the bridge at South Broad Street. I noticed an array of belongings tucked underneath that bridge. If I had not been taking pictures there, I would not have seen those belongings. In fact no passerby would see those things, which is probably by design.

Right away I thought somebody had slept under the bridge. How loathsome that must be, especially with temperatures nightly in the low 20s. I wondered if the people sleeping under that bridge feel safe. Even with a zillion blankets, I don’t know how warm they could be under that bridge, atop the riverbank. None of us can even begin to imagine being homeless.

The Atlanta Mission

My children and grandchildren live in Atlanta. They are generous with their time and money for some very worthy causes. Chief among those causes is the Atlanta Mission, formerly known as the Atlanta Union Mission.

One of the activities they volunteer for is called “Fun Friday.” This is designed to entertain homeless families. The volunteers play games, and watch movies with the children.

The race to end homelessness

Several years ago the Atlanta Mission organized a 5K walk/run fundraiser called, “The Atlanta Mission Race to End Homelessness.” Participants register a team and raise funds for the 5K walk/run. This is the seventh consecutive year my daughter and son-in-law have registered a team and raised funds. They named their team “Fun Friday.” I donate to the event every year. My grandchildren go as well and in the process they are learning how to help others.

The Atlanta Mission has a clear vision for an Atlanta without homelessness. The organization is operated by people with energy, compassion, and the knowledge necessary to realize that vision.

Recently there has been a good deal of information in the newspaper about homelessness in Rome. There is a task force working to help Rome’s homeless population. Very much to their credit, the task force includes homeless people to be involved with the task force.

A vision whose time has come

Wouldn’t it be great if Rome could organize a 5K fundraiser like the one organized by the Atlanta Mission? The theme could be “Rome Race to End Homelessness.” I would be happy to participate in, and help organize, an event like that.

Rome Without Homelessness. A clear vision that would be a real blessing to realize. A clear vision whose time has probably come.

Native Roman Pam Walker is a paralegal, a writer, avid cyclist, history enthusiast and ardent reader of Southern fiction. She is the author of the new book, “People, Places, and Memories of Rome.” Readers may email her at pamterrellwalker@gmail.com.

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