It’s cold this morning, eh?
Good day for a cup of steaming black coffee and maybe a bowl of hot oatmeal before you get down to business.
Have a nice day warming your hands by the fire and pulling out one of those chunky, lumpy sweaters you keep for days like this.
A pleasant and crisp winter morning in the Yakima Valley.
Unless your view is through a blue tarp flap or maybe a piece of cardboard – you know, the DIY housing you see popping up along the Fair Avenue exit of Interstate 82, around the 40th Avenue and US Highway 12 or a number of other strips of vacant land where the homeless are huddled.
Everything seems to hit homeless people the hardest this time of year. And when you factor in the threats they already face due to inadequate nutrition, limited health care options, and various addictions – which in some cases is why they’re here to start – it is brutal.
Imagine being sick and having nowhere to recuperate or rest comfortably. You are hungry, cold, and you can’t even sleep properly. As we said, brutal.
In the past year we have lost almost 70 people this way, more than in recent years.
They were your neighbors whether you knew them or not.
Meredith Bruch, who chairs the Homeless Network of Yakima County, noted that the homeless “are often pushed to the edge where they cannot be seen.”
It happens a lot, okay. And so hard to admit, we all know why.
This is because as compassionate as we all want to be, most of us cringe at the thought of meeting a homeless man whose demons have led him to a place we can not even imagine.
Yes, we want them to get what they need, but no, we don’t want to risk being drawn into an impromptu surreal, circular conversation that often leads to a call for any change we might spare.
It’s uncomfortable. It is heartbreaking. But it’s also maddening. We just want to go shopping and maybe meet our friends for a nice lunch. We did not sign for it.
Times like last week’s vigil, however, remind us that no matter how hard we try to push the homeless out of our daily paths, they are always there.
These moments should also motivate us – and leaders at all levels of our community – to seek effective and long-term solutions.
It will take commitment and cooperation. It will take elected officials ready to focus on solutions rather than political conquests.
This is another reason why it is so crucial to demand competence and compassion from public servants.
It’s something to think about as you savor that cup of coffee this morning.