Sipes: Maybe we’re as much of a ‘problem’ as the homeless

July 31, 2013 

Sipes

— When I was a child and my mother told me to clean my room, most of the time I stuffed everything in my closet or under my bed, giving the perception upon first glance that I had complied. After reading the appalling July 17 article (“Are the homeless hurting downtown businesses?”), it sounds like downtown businesses want to sweep a very real problem under the rug — one that has to do with living, breathing human beings — and merely give the perception that Columbia does not have a homeless problem.

We do have a homeless problem. But not in the way most are approaching it. Homelessness is a problem that the city and its citizens have failed to successfully address at its root, which goes beyond providing food, shelter and clothing. While such programs are good, somewhere we, citizens and local officials of this city, are not working together effectively to put into place preventive programs that help people from getting to the point of homelessness.

Homelessness is a community problem that we should be concerned with not just for the sake of protecting businesses or out of self-interest. We should have a genuine concern for and desire to help our fellow human beings, beginning by investing in education, mental health services, financial counseling and other proactive services that help people before they find themselves and their children on the street.

I suggest the downtown business owners put their heads together on ways they can help the people at the heart of their issue rather than simply complaining and considering homelessness someone else’s problem. If you aren’t a part of a real, sustainable solution then you’re only perpetuating the problem.

People’s lives are at stake, and I’m not talking about the life and livelihood of the business owners. The homeless problem in Columbia is greater than an annoyance or eyesore for downtown shoppers. When we begin to see homelessness as a problem as much of our own as of those who are experiencing it, then maybe we will come up with some real solutions, rather than continuing to put a Band-Aid over a problem that’s too big for a Band-Aid to heal or hide.

Rev. Jeri-Katherine Warden Sipes

Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church

Columbia

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