We Must Do Better

Volunteer street teams fanned out across Wisconsin last night roaming the streets, searching in parks, darkened buildings, bushes, parked cars and dumpsters looking for homeless individuals and families and trying to get them to shelter while doing the Point in Time count. I was team lead for one group in downtown Green Bay at several parks.

Fortunately we didn’t find anyone, everyone who was homeless in those areas found shelter last night. We did find what appeared to be one abandoned campsite, but no one was in it.

It was bitterly bitterly cold! It was an ice rink everywhere we went.

As I was walking through those dark, cold parks, and then going back to the car to go place to place and to warm up, Penny with us, I kept thinking that for far too many people, this is the reality of their lives. I kept thinking it is impossible for me to reconcile that we have so much in this country and yet we let homelessness go on, and blame the poor for it.

Yes, there are a very few individuals who are “homeless by choice.” Those individuals are usually struggling with severe mental health issues and advanced addiction. The rest are just those who had one thing happen, and it triggered the next bad thing, and the next bad thing, perhaps moving forward only to slide back again. Some families are situationally homeless, for a week or two or a month or two. Most don’t actually end up “on the street,“ but they still don’t have a stable home.

We must continue to push our policy makers to not look the other way, not blame the poor, not find excuses, and not just insist that they work harder – like they are not already working as hard as they can to change their lives. Three minimum-wage jobs just doesn’t do it. Childcare is expensive, healthcare is expensive, affordable housing is rarely available and not affordable for too many.

The struggle is far too real. As I came home to my secure, warm, stable house at just after 2:30 AM, I felt tremendous gratitude for what I have, fear and concern for so many who are struggling with burdens too great to bear.

So this morning, hug your loved ones, be grateful for what you have, and please – give back, push policymakers to make a real difference, and see how you can get involved in your community. It doesn’t take something big, every tiny thing helps. As I used to often end prayers at the dinner table, “Lord please keep us ever mindful that we are not expected to do great things, only small things with great love.”

-Cheryl Detrick, CEO & President at Newcap, Inc.