The following statement is from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness website,
"The elected officials’ agreement, America’s Road Home Statement of Principles and Actions, affirms the roles of the U.S. Interagency Council, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the National Association of Counties in providing jurisdictional leadership through 10-Year Plans to End Chronic Homelessness, adoption of innovations such as Housing First, ACT teams, and Project Homeless Connect, and the involvement of the philanthropic community in investing in results with a focus on permanent housing."
Although the push to implement solutions for helping the nation’s homeless find permanent housing was borne at the federal level, homelessness is nonetheless primarily a community issue. As such, it is one which has to be addressed "locally."
Traditional methods of "dealing" with homelessness (e.g. – homeless shelters, drop in day centers for the homeless, etc.) have been ineffective at reducing the numbers of persons who live on our nation’s city streets. The evidence of that inefficacy is quite apparent, considering that the numbers of homeless has continued to rise steadily – particularly among families with dependant children.
Unfortunately, most folks have a tendency to believe that it is the sole role of the government to provide for their local area homeless. Seldom do they think of themselves as also having to take an active part in the effort to reduce homelessness. Yet, often times, it is the small "grassroots" actions of a handful of citizens which can have the greatest impact at helping a homeless person regain their place in society. This is especially true when those folks are motivated by their compassion for a fellow human being.
I found a prime example of how a community’s compassion and their working together have helped one homeless person in their area. The article, Homeless man, Ansley Park neighbors strike deal, was in yesterday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
It told of two men: Jake Compton and Jerry Attkisson. Both live in the same neighborhood. One homeless; the other a homeowner. One lived in the local park; the other in a house of his own.
Mr. Compton had been living under a tree in Winn Park for quite some time – ten years in fact. Long enough that most of his "neighbors" knew him.
Mr. Attkisson began to worry about him. So much so, that he felt a need to help.
According to the article,
"In June, the 67-year-old retired real estate investor was tired of worrying. He approached Compton with a proposition: If Compton would distribute mulch around the park, Attkisson would pay him $2 for every pile the homeless man moved and spread out. Deal, said Compton."
But it didn’t end there.
Mr. Attkisson took it a step further and sent letters to 200 other families in the neighborhood asking their assistance to create a fund which would do two things: it would "beautify their park" and help Mr. Compton get back on his feet. 40 of those families responded. Subsequently, Mr. Compton was able to be kept on "the payroll."
His current project is helping to clean up the park’s pond.
He has saved money; has a bank account; a cell phone and – as the article says – has "… his eye on a nice little place on Piedmont Avenue."
The article is a one of the finest testaments of compassion in action. It is also a reminder that all of us can – and should – take an active role in helping the homeless within our own communities.
Mr. Attkisson didn’t give Mr. Compton a hand out. He gave him a hand up.
The result is that the Ansley Park Neighborhood Association has someone to help maintain their local park for all of them to enjoy. And, in the process, a job was created for Mr. Compton.
However, more importantly, is that Mr. Compton’s "neighbors" have given him something far more valuable than just a job. They’ve given him back his dignity.
To me that constitutes a win-win situation.