By G.W. Rolle
Dear Mayor Foster,
My name is Gregory Rolle. Most people call me “G.W.”, and you may as well.
I am heartened that you have reached out to the Homeless Leadership Network. I am by no means the leader or spokesperson for that group, but being a member of the HLN in good standing, I am compelled to answer your mailing if for no more reason than to rise to the defense of the Public Defender.
The marginalization and the criminalization of the homeless and near-homeless is a disgrace and a blight on our city. Housing, Mayor Foster, is a basic human right. Affordable housing is intrinsic in that formula. Laws that make people criminals by their very definition, are laws that criminalize and marginalize them.
You see, sir, the number one reason that people are homeless, is that they lack housing. Most ne’er-do-wells, thieves, drug addicts, alcoholics, petty criminals, and prostitutes, live inside. The small amount of people who live outside do so because they either cannot afford or cannot negotiate living inside. No one, sir, wants to be homeless.
When homeless people do get jobs, and lift themselves off the street through meager means, such as the selling of the St Petersburg Times, please tell me how it serves society or St Petersburg to nix their earning potential and render them street homeless again, by passing laws and ordinances which criminalize them.
With all due respect, sir, your letter would be of better service by engaging in topics of affordable housing and a cessation of criminalizing ordinances that cost the taxpayers of this city untold thousands, and have been shown to be quite ineffective in reducing street homelessness.
Mayor Foster, every 21st of December for the past three years, the City of St Petersburg has signed a proclamation stating that housing is a basic human right. Wouldn’t a proclamation stating that housing is is a human right year round, and a pledge to seek creative involvement, rather than the current criminalization of homelessness, produce a greater yield?
I’d like to close with an example: There is a man who is homeless and a veteran, who has spent 320 days in jail since 2008. Most of these are one or two day affairs, for open container, public urination or tresspassing — homeless crimes. Even by a modest estimate of $126 a day for incarceration, this sum is over $30,000.
With the policy the city police have to drive people out into the rain who are seeking shelter, and arrest those who are too slow to comply (statements furnished upon request), we see a fortune in $126 pile up before our eyes, whereas we see little change in our homeless population or problem. The Public Defender is all that homeless people have, unless you believe he should be replaced by another lawsuit by outside forces.
Your Honor, our street outreach team does fabulous work in terms of constructive engagement. We need five more teams. That would save us money and we would began to see our homeless numbers decrease.
Yet I am afraid, that without a frank and honest discussion about affordable housing we are just dancing around homelessness instead of dancing with it.
G.W. Rolle is the Social Justice Minister at Missio Dei Church in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Candy Christmas is the Founder and
President of The Bridge Ministry
in Nashville, Tennessee.
By Lenette Evans
Here in Nashville, Tenn., the homeless situation is extremely bad and far worse then in Benton Harbor, Mich., where I am from. Nashville is a much bigger city but, outside Nashville, all the towns are little rural farm towns. This also happens to be a right-to-work state and many people are out of work and can’t find a job. Many of the homeless are local and many come from all over. The better climate attracts people to Nashville.
I have been helping feed a homeless man and his dog here in Springfield, Tenn., and I recently met two other homeless men in downtown Nashville who have been banned from the library for trying to get a few minutes rest.
Everyday the homeless are faced with being beat up, robbed, stabbed, and degraded because they are homeless. They live on the streets, wherever they can, under bridges, dumpsters, and abandoned buildings. Many suffer from depression, mental illnesses, as well as addictions.
OUR GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO BE MORE ACCOUNTABLE IN HELPING OUR HOMELESS PEOPLE . . . especially since our economy has been shot down and flat-lined to the max.
Thank God for wonderful, passionate, caring people like Candy Christmas. She is an awesome woman of God and a well-known Christian Gospel singer who started the Bridge Ministry, back in 2004 to help the homeless.
I was at the Bridge Ministry, which takes place every Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. under the Jefferson Street bridge. Worship singers and the homeless filled every chair under the bridge and many were standing or sitting off in the lawn next to the bridge.
There is anywhere from 200-250 people. There has been up to 500 people at times.
Hot meals are served, and cold soda/ bottled water. Two half sized semi trucks give away bags of food and new clothing to those in need.
A pastor spoke the word and prayer partners prayed for those in need of prayer. Candy Christmas gave some of the homeless a chance to show their talent by singing “Amazing Grace,” along with her and Angie Brown.
Two other organizations that help the homeless are the “Nashville Homeless Power Project” and the “Nashville Rescue Mission”.
PEOPLE LETS STOP SITTING AND THINKING THAT THE HOMELESS AND THE LOST WILL COME TO YOU — NO! . . . IT’S ABOUT PEOPLE GETTING OUT AND GOING WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE AND HELPING THEM.
I am a street Evangelist in Benton Harbor, Mich., but imagine if every person got out of their home, out of the church pew and truly took up your cross to follow Jesus Christ to make a difference in someone’s life. Imagine how you can help? Homeless people have struggles like anyone else but they also need to be loved and know someone cares for them.
We can all give up something to reach out to the homeless or someone in need — it might be a cup of coffee, or going out to dinner or buying clothes for yourself. I might be on vacation here in Nashville but God’s work is never done. Wherever I go, day to day, I am reaching out to someone and trying to feed the homeless and the poor. Praise God for what he does in the Bridge Ministry because its all about giving and sharing and when our government doesn’t reach out to help we have to get out there and get creative and see what we can do to help.
For more info on the Bridge Ministry go to: http://www.bridgeministry.org
Saving Souls Ministry,
St. Joseph, MI.269-876-1848