Green Corner: Homelessness and Environmental Justice | February, 2021

There were 568,000 homeless people in America in October. That’s enough to fill five large football stadiums and the numbers have only grown worse since.

2.5 million children experience homelessness in the U.S. each year with 40 percent of those of school-age experiencing some form of mental health problems. One half of the 37,000 homeless veterans we have are experiencing either physical or mental health difficulties. On any given night, 48,000 women, many with children, are forced to leave or have left their homes to escape domestic violence. One estimate says that long-term homelessness can take 20-30 years off a life.

It’s a national disgrace and one that has no easy answers. One size doesn’t fit all for a solution. Suffice it to say being homeless could happen to anyone under our broken systems of healthcare, criminal justice and economics where wages can fall far short of a livable income even as Wall Street booms. As with the Quaker model of treating the severely mentally ill effectively with compassion as a cornerstone from 1880-1910 only to see their model abandoned to an institutional model, compassion is now lacking for the homeless As a society, we struggle to take a no-fault approach to debilitating mental or physical illness and homelessness. Illness as a moral failing was the political approach taken by the previous presidential administration. It was the bootstrap approach while cutting off the bootstraps. The bootstrap approach has always been a fallacy anyway. We all need help at times.

“I believe everyone has the right to a home and to be free of food insecurity,” says Michael Redmond, high school friend and Director of The Haven in White River Junction. Redmond referred me to a film titled “Under the Bridge,” which profiles a formerly successful contactor who lived under a local bridge for five years due to addiction and emotional problems.

The website EcoBear points to the environmental impact of the homeless among us: 1. Trash. With no place to store items in a tent and little access to receptacles, the ground is often littered. The homeless encampment in Manchester that was dismantled on November 20, had overflowing garbage cans on each of my several visits. 2. Human waste. 3. Biohazardous waste. It was telling that when the Manchester camp was taken down Hazmat suits and truck were on-site. 4. Needles. 5. Fires. The River Road encampment was recently taken down when a propane heater caught two tents on fire. A homeless Manchester resident was killed last year in a similar accident. 6. Fouled water. 7. Abusive camping practices. The Manchester Rail Trail has several tents on the downward slope close to Delta Dental Stadium. Any waste here would go into the Merrimack River.

I wish I could detail solutions to this crisis, but here are a few talking points: 1. A $15 minimum wage. A suprising number of homeless people have jobs. 2. Shelters that feel more like home and less like institutions. Redmond showed me impressive new and clean living quarters. No one should be punished for being homeless. 3. Treatment for addiction. 4. Addressing the trauma of domestic violence and sex-trafficking. 5. Offering employment skills and individual futures planning. 6. Pathways to education. 7. Mental health counseling.

Our Church collects warm clothes, blankets, sleeping bags and toiletries for Manchester’s homeless folks.We have a box in the foyer or contact Edna White for a pick-up of donations: 867-9288; whiteedn@yahoo.com

Keep Rockin’ For a Free World,

The Social Responsibility Committee represented by John Angelo (timelywriter@hotmail.com)

One Response to “Green Corner: Homelessness and Environmental Justice | February, 2021

  1. Good article, as yours alway are. I’m glad you are continuing to write your column. I think I read there were 8 encampments, another place said 14. Once the weather warms up, there will be a lot more, I suspect. Not at all sure Manchester will be ready – it’s not ready now for the numbers we have, and the problems they have, and the help they need.

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