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Letter to the Editor: Offer compassion and help for the homeless

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Homelessness has been one of the forefronts of stigma for many years. According to a non-profit organization in Rocky Mount called United Community Ministries, there were 550 homeless children in the school system this past February. If there are that many homeless children that are in our school system, imagine how many adults and younger children are homeless as well. There are many that stand on corners or under bridges in Rocky Mount holding a sign waiting for a handout. Sure, there are people that drive or walk by that may lend a hand or look the other way, but how many of those people stop to put themselves in their place? How many would stand on that corner or under that bridge if they were homeless and needed to feed their family or themselves hoping someone would help?

The lack of compassion for the homeless population has dwindled due to stereotypes. Common stereotypes are that they are mentally ill, drug addicted, or lazy. Truth be told, this may be true for some but not for all. I grew up in an area of Rocky Mount called The Hill. The Hill is not the best of neighborhoods filled with drug addicts, homelessness, and poverty.

I remember being at a hair salon four years ago in the downtown area and there was a homeless man that worked there for a little money sweeping up hair, dumping trash, etc. I don’t recall him asking for anything but one day I chose to give him $20 and told him ‘everything was going to be alright’ without giving it a second thought as I walked out. It has been four years later and that same man was at my mother’s home visiting recently but I didn’t recognize him and didn’t know he knew my mother. His clothes were clean and he looked happy. It wasn’t until after I left my mother’s home that she called and told me that the man sitting on her porch said he remembered me. He remembered me giving him $20 telling him everything was going to be alright. She said that he told her that moment meant a lot to him because he was really in a time of need and had nothing. You never know who you are helping. Compassion is all it takes to make someone’s day. Rocky Mount is considered the ‘City on the Rise’. Although it is rising, homeless shelters are scarce but the homeless rate is high. There are two shelters in Rocky Mount for men and women run by a non-profit organization called United Community Ministries. The shelters are The Bassett Center and Community Shelter. According to an article in the Rocky Mount Telegram published July 25, 2017; United Community Ministries has helped 38 out of 56 families move into permanent housing last year (Kay, 2017).

This is wonderful news and means that homeless families are being helped which creates space for those that still need shelter. Rocky Mount still needs more shelters for homeless families but it will take time, and teamwork from the community to make it happen.

If people continue to have compassion for the homeless whether it be volunteering at the local soup kitchen, or showing an act of kindness, it could help end the stigma and stereotypes placed upon the homeless population. We the residents of the City of Rocky Mount may not be able to end homelessness around the world, but we can start with our community. After all, it could happen to anyone.

SHARICE WILLIAMS

Rocky Mount

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