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Homeless Citizens Have Champions

The Fort Wayne, IN community has always been considered a small town in a big city, yet given the numbers of citizens ready to assist others experiencing hard times, specifically brothers and sisters without homes, that Mayberry-esk feel certainly is real. In a struggle to adjust and adapt to current societal woes, these champions from all over the United States, who choose to follow their social conscience seem to consistently run into their share of municipal opposition. The consistent fear from civic leaders ranges anywhere from anxiety over potential increased crime to simple vagrancy.

In Portland, OR, the mayor has recently decided to renew a law that allowed city police to roust homeless people from sitting on city sidewalks and last summer homeless campsites were cleared. Concerned Portland citizens charged City Hall with torches and pitchforks in protest of the mistreatment of homeless individuals. In Los Angeles, CA, police and city workers were on a mission to clean up the streets and threw away property of homeless people which included warm clothing, needed medicines, identification, and cell phones. Hawaii lawmaker, Tom Brower, took a sledgehammer to shopping carts used by people living on the streets, and in Florida the homeless are treated as criminals being locked out of park restrooms and public camping facilities. In Fort Wayne, there is a similar situation brewing. First, with the Great American Clean-up where homeless people were told to move their things off city property or lose it, and then with a not too subtle attempt at intimidation by police of the aforementioned socially conscious individuals feeding people three times per week.

Fort Wayne is considered the City of Churches, and with that comes the multitudes of people who take their faith seriously. Helping people less fortunate is the major tenet in every religion from Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, to Atheism. They give of their time and talents to assist in any way they can. Matthew Nolot, Executive Chef at Eddie Merlots is a constant contributor of meals to Sally Becker Segerson’s Dinner and Duds. Saints on the Street whose mission “is to seek out the lonely, the hurting, the lost, being His hands and feet, spreading His love and blessings to those that are down and out” is out in the city on a regular basis. St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen has been in existence since 1975, and the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission since 1903.

If municipal governments continue to criminalize the homeless people in the United States, a formidable surge of unrest and protest is predictable. Not enough is being done by cities and states to assist those who find themselves in the position of homelessness. Affordable housing is primary, but an understanding that persons traumatized by homelessness need time to heal and recuperate is essential. Coming back takes time.

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