An exhaustive eight-part series by the Cleveland Daily Banner investigating the worsening plight of homelessness in our Cleveland community has apparently resurrected a debate that has ebbed and …
An exhaustive eight-part series by the Cleveland Daily Banner investigating the worsening plight of homelessness in our Cleveland community has apparently resurrected a debate that has ebbed and flowed like a tide in recent years.
Most agree it’s a problem, especially in the downtown district and along certain stretches of the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway, as well as one or more homeless camps reported to operate in undeveloped wooded areas of our community.
Several churches, agencies and nonprofits are working individually — and to some degree collectively — to derail the growing crisis, but so far answers remain few and resources even fewer.
Cleveland Chief of Police Mark Gibson said it well in an interview with our newspaper when he reminded us all, “Simply being homeless is not a crime,” meaning law enforcement’s role in resolving the problem is limited.
That’s why it falls on the shoulders of organizations to work together, not just to provide a roof, a bed and a meal, but to tackle homelessness at its source: Understanding why it happens, how it impacts the individuals as well as the community, and what can be done to get the homeless back on their feet.
If Cleveland’s growing problem is to be remedied, it will require the ideas — and the actions — of many: Nonprofits, churches, local government entities and individuals, among others.
But becoming more familiar with the circumstance is a first step.
That step is happening Monday, Aug. 19, in a community meeting hosted by Family Promise of Bradley County. To get underway at 6:30 p.m., the gathering will be held in the Community Room of the Cleveland Bradley County Public Library.
The public is invited. And frankly, it is hoped the public will attend for it is they who could help shoulder some of the burden by letting their voices be heard.
For those unfamiliar with Family Promise, it is a respected 501(c)(3) that focuses its full efforts on helping homeless families with children. Partnering with 11 Cleveland churches, it provides families with nightly shelter and meals inside the churches, but also works closely with the families in their search for jobs, housing and other resources.
The organization’s day center on Norman Chapel Road provides basic needs like a shower, kitchen and small computer lab.
Even for those who want to emerge from homelessness, it is not easy. Eva VanHook, Family Promise executive director, explained, “There are a lot of barriers that threaten to keep homeless families where they’re at. We try to break down those barriers.”
Inevitable barriers are the bad news. But the good news is interest within the public realm seems to be moving toward taking an active hand in making bad times better for those who are down on their luck.
“We have received so many calls lately from people wanting to learn more about homelessness and how they can help,” VanHook stressed. “We really want to present the community with information and a solution we have to help families.”
This points to the importance of embracing the challenge by attending the community meeting. It will be an informational session introducing the work of Family Promise, as well as tackling the overall issue of homelessness.
For those wanting to get involved, this is your chance.
Whether you have an interest as an individual, or as a church, a civic group, a school, an organization of professionals, a division of local government, or anyone or anything with the inbred power to change lives … you are the very people for whom the public session is intended.
Like any problem, homelessness will not go away by looking the other way. In truth, ignoring the crisis will guarantee its spread.
“We have some pretty neat things planned, and we hope we’ll have good attendance,” VanHook stressed in a recent interview with Banner staff writer Christy Armstrong. “We hope people will leave with a better understanding of homelessness and consider getting involved.”
Questions? Visit www.familypromisebradley.org. Or, call 423-650-4106.
For those concerned about Cleveland’s homeless crisis, we urge your attendance.
And if your heart tugs hard enough, we hope you’ll choose to get involved.
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