Homelessness is our problem

March 27, 2014

To the editor:

I have been a wintertime resident of Richmond County for the past four years. During these times I have attempted to contribute to the well-being of the community by volunteering at Rockingham Manor, Our Daily Bread and the Hamlet and Rockingham soup kitchens.

On March 18 I attended the meeting at City Hall concerning the homeless shelter. I was taken aback when I witnessed the polarization of opinions and attitudes toward our homeless residents. It deeply saddens me to know that persons who find themselves without shelter or food have nowhere to turn. Even more upsetting is knowing that many individuals and families struggle to meet the bare necessities of life on a day to day basis and are only one paycheck away from being evicted and finding themselves on the street. Having been blessed all my life with a stable income, a warm and safe home and ample food, I cannot imagine what it feels like to experience hunger, to be cold, or to feel unsafe when I try to sleep at night.

I understand that in assisting those in need we do not want to create long-term dependence. We also do not want Richmond County to become a drawing card for the poor from neighboring counties to migrate to. However, we do need to offer a helping hand to assist our neighbors in crisis to regain their dignity and independence.

From what I have learned about Rockingham and its citizens during my time here, I know there must be a way to develop some type of system, however imperfect and rudimentary, to assist the homeless in our midst. This community is filled with individuals who are wise, caring, innovative and who possess a wide range of experience, talent and skills. What I see as the greatest impediment to progress in this area is the lack of desire and motivation by persons of power and authority who should be inspiring us and leading us in positive directions but instead are allowing themselves to be led by a few narrow, negative individuals.

A community cannot achieve health or wholeness when it ignores or shuns or “sweeps under the rug” a part of itself. I implore each of us to search our hearts, dialogue, brainstorm and move along, however awkwardly and clumsily it may seem toward the goal of giving our homeless residents a hand up.

Virginia Emerson