It is good to know that folks in Sylva have come together to assist those who are afflicted by extreme poverty. Having experienced homelessness myself in 1998 in Western Massachusetts, I know what a challenge it can be to regain economic and social stability in one’s life. I feel led to assist in this endeavor, and hope to facilitate a support group for those ensnared in the condition of extreme poverty in Jackson County. In this group, I will encourage folks to seek outside help, but also to muster their own creative resources as well as good, old-fashioned common sense as they face down severe life challenges. I would like to co-lead this group with someone local.
We all know, or should know, that there are multiple reasons why one may become afflicted with extreme poverty. Job loss, divorce, mental illness, other forms of disability, substance abuse, discrimination–and the list goes on–all can lead one down a pathway that eventually can result in literal homelessness. Whatever the cause, folks of good conscience are frequently motivated to render assistance to those less fortunate.
Then, of course, there are those whose irresponsible behavior has contributed to their economic hardship. These individuals also are deserving of assistance, but not coddling. There are times when “tough love” is required to help an individual. Movement in the direction of responsible behavior must be encouraged (even cheered!), while a compulsive tendency to blame others for one’s plight must be confronted in a straightforward manner, but not harshly.
I want to conclude this piece by applauding those citizens of Jackson County who have stepped forward to offer assistance to the homeless. I want to assert, however, that those AT-RISK of becoming homeless must not be forgotten. Prevention is typically much easier to implement successfully than is crisis-intervention.
Patrick Frank is a poet-columnist-songwriter with a teaching-counseling background and an advocate for the poor from Arden. He experienced homelessness for a year in New England and came out the other side.