Homelessness And The Fury Of Mother Nature

Posted: November 16, 2009 in Compassion, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Housing, Morality, Poverty

The Atlantic seaboard was pummeled by Tropical Storm Ida for three days during the latter part of last week.

Ida brought with her heavy rains and highs winds (which at times measured in excess of 70 mph) that left behind a swath of devastation – including 6 deaths across 3 states.

In Virginia, several barges, which were carrying hazardous materials, were broken loose from their moorings due to the large waves and sustained high winds caused by the storm. One 700 ft. oil tanker was even driven aground after breaking loose.

In North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey, the American Red Cross kicked up its efforts to offer emergency services for those affected by Ida.  

As of this writing, I was unable to come across an estimated cost of the damage caused by Ida’s fury. I’m guessing that it won’t be cheap.

Despite that however, one consolation is that the majority of folks will probably be able to rebuild their lives.

As difficult as it had to be for folks who had someplace to weather the storm, I can’t help but wonder about those who are homeless and had to brave the elements without the benefits of having shelter.

For most Americans, severe weather conditions are dealt with by staying indoors – either at work, at home or elsewhere.

If, as in some cases, folks are asked to evacuate their homes, it’s a matter of heading out to family or friends who live outside the affected areas. If they can afford it, some opt to check into a motel until they are able to return to their homes.

The nation’s homeless do not have such options available to them.

For them, the actions of Mother Nature can present additional – and potential – dangers.

If they find themselves in extreme weather conditions and are unable to get into a local shelter, the homeless are forced to make due as best as they can.

This might include using abandoned or condemned buildings; tucking oneself away in a doorway; taking refuge under highway overpasses, parking structures, inside dumpsters; or anywhere else that might offer even the slightest measure of "shelter."

As we draw closer to the winter season, certain areas of our country will face extremes in frigid temperatures.

Most Americans will be fortunate enough to be indoors: "safe and warm" – as the saying goes.

A sizable number of homeless will not be able to even get into a shelter for lack of available space.

Sadly, some of them may not survive through until next year.

Mother Nature’s fury will have exacted its toll.

Last winter, I read a number of news reports about homeless persons who, having been unable to find a place warm enough to make it through till morning, were found frozen to death. Some of them were Veterans.

It’s easy to fault the homeless for their lack of housing. In some cases, we might even be justified in assigning the blame to them.

Nonetheless, considering the nation’s current economic situation – not to mention, the highest unemployment rate in several decades – we mustn’t forget that more and more persons who have become homeless have been victims of the recession, and not through any fault of their own.

The reality however, is that it doesn’t really matter who is at fault.

What does matter is that we begin seeking and pushing for genuine solutions to ending homelessness in our nation.

But, as long as we continue to focus on laying the blame on someone or something, we’re taking our eyes off the big picture. And as long as we keep doing that, homelessness will continue to be an affliction that some of our fellow citizens will have to struggle with.

It’s bad enough that our nation’s homeless have to face Mother Nature’s fury.

They shouldn’t have to face ours as well.

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