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The Need for a Community of Compassion

Last night I was the only citizen to capitalize on either chance for citizen comment provided by City Council. Here were my remarks:

"The past month has served as a painful reminder of how miserable winter can be. Just imagine, for a second, if you were unfortunate enough to endure this nightmare outside of the comfort of your own home. Right now, as most of us are safe from the brisk winds and dangerously-low temperatures, there are a number of our brothers and sisters who aren’t so lucky. For them, there is no certainty that they will have a warm place to rest. Instead, all they have to hope for is that some local charitable organization will have the rooms or resources to lend them a helping hand.

If you’ve been paying attention to news articles about the homeless over even the past couple of years you ought to be familiar with stories about the brutal treatment of our least fortunate. From vicious assaults by random careless people to cities actually shipping them out of state via a one-way plane or bus ticket, the homeless are often portrayed as a stain on society. How can this be? How can we justify painting those who are suffering the most in our midst as being what’s wrong with our image? Isn’t our lack of empathy and compassionate action the true stain on our society?

Before we lash out in blind judgment of the downtrodden, should we not take a step back and consider all the possible pathways to homelessness which exists? Not only that, but wouldn’t it also be instructive to ponder the plethora of roadblocks standing in their way as they try to escape their desolate existence? Need I mention the troubling fact that thousands of these poor humans once served you and I as a member of the United States Armed Forces? Granted, the number of homeless veterans is on the decline, but the fact that any man or woman who once fought on our behalf ever found themselves without a home should cause us all to be ashamed.

Then again, is it humane to make a distinction between a homeless veteran and anyone else in the same predicament? At the end of the day, these citizens are our fellow countrymen, and to ignore their plight is equally repugnant regardless of whether they wore a military uniform. Yes, there are charitable organizations scattered about which aim to assist the homeless on their journey back to stability, but their resources are limited. Is there nothing more that we, as a city, can do to combat this crisis of our collective soul?

A study published last May by the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness found that providing housing and sufficient guidance as they transition back into productive citizenship saves a city roughly $20,000 per person. This is compared to the current fend for yourselves approach wherein we see the public’s money wasted on arresting, jailing, and even treating them in the emergency room for health problems best dealt with by a primary care physician or psychiatrist. If given a chance, I have faith that most of our homeless neighbors will give back ten-fold as hard-working, tax-paying members of our society. All they need is for their community to step up and give them a fighting chance.

Thank you."

In the months ahead, as I campaign for a seat on Council (since I successfully collected enough signatures to get certified to the ballot in November), I will be making helping the least fortunate among us a major part of my message. We mustn't forget their plight, for their struggle could one day be our own.

Together we rise or fall.

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