When we listen to and talk with homeless people, we realize they are not criminals or nomads sweeping across the city center, as your Aug. 8 article suggested (“As Main Street’s popularity grows, so do disturbing encounters with homeless”). They are individuals trying to cope with their current circumstances as best they can.
Consider the views of John Holmes, first and former chairman of Homeless Helping Homeless. Mr. Holmes describes himself as “a homeless man who works every day out of a temp agency as other homeless do.” He spends time on Main Street, but he doesn’t panhandle or urinate in public or display public drunkenness — stereotypes that were magnified by the article.
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“Our goal is to present ourselves as respectable, responsible, productive citizens of this community and let people know we are employable,” Mr. Holmes says. “We do this through a series of projects and events such as adopt a block clean-ups, various speaking engagements, voter registration drives.”
Homeless Helping Homeless is a 501(c)3 organization established seven years ago by five homeless people; it is affiliated with 67 supporting organizations, including the United Way, Sister Care and the Midlands Area Consortium for the Homeless. Its mission is overcome the negative stereotypes of homeless people.
“We are not all lawbreakers,” Mr. Holmes says. “And those that are (usually committed) petty crimes such as public drunkenness and trespassing when trying to find a place to lay their heads.”
I for one am proud that our city is known as a place where homeless people can eat well. Kudos to the organizations and people who feed them. To stop urination in public places, Columbia should provide more public facilities, which would help all human beings to “go” Columbia — a policy our mayor supports.
Alice Bee Kasakoff