By Jeremy Reynalds
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
However, like other cities across the nation, it’s not without its problems. We have a sizeable homeless community; one that is too big for any organization to help on its own.
It’s no secret that the emotional, mental and physical issues which routinely plague members of the homeless community often don’t make them the best neighbors.
With that in mind, I sympathize with business owners and neighborhoods that don’t want the homeless “hanging around” in their neighborhood. I get it. “Getting it,” though, doesn’t mean the issue can be ignored.
However, not being willing to have the homeless in a variety of neighborhoods because of the mess some of them leave afterwards has become a definite problem for Joy Junction.
Having been kicked out of our last two pickup spots because of the behavior of some of our clients (and perhaps others) has become a definite problem for us. Now we have no set spot for the evenings where current guests and others in need can wait to meet our van.
One of our staff members asked a few of our guests if they had any ideas. We’ll check them out, but would also appreciate you letting us know at email@example.com if you have any ideas.
One woman told us, “That’s horrible! I think that the employment agency on Mountain and Broadway would be a great place. It’s kind of out of the way and safe for families. Good luck in your search.”
Another guest suggested Triangle (Robinson) Park, a known gathering place for a number of homeless. He said, “They can’t kick you off that property because it’s public property. This city is getting very mean to the homeless.”
Another guest said she can’t believe we’re experiencing these problems. She added, “Don’t they realize that JJ is miles away from downtown? If I chose a new place for you, it would be the Storehouse on Central and Broadway. It’s a familiar place for the homeless and not too far to walk to.”
Civic Plaza also ended up in the suggestion box. One guy said, “There are cops always close by so that everyone will be safe. I would like to be picked up there at night because it’s lit up enough.”
The Downtown Library was another suggestion. One woman commented, “It’s in a good part of downtown. You can pick up on the west side of the building. It’s much safer. I’m sorry that you got kicked off the other two places. That’s not okay! Many homeless people don’t have bus fare to get to a far away place to be picked up.”
Other suggestions for a new pickup spot included The Rock at Noonday, Presbyterian Hospital and St. Martin’s Hospitality Center.
One guest commented about St. Martin’s. “They’ve done so much to help the homeless over the years. It would make sense that they would help in this situation. I’m surprised that JJ hasn’t used them already.”
As I write this, our van is picking up guests “on the fly.” That means instead of having them gather at one or two central locations, we’re going all over town to pick them up wherever they might be.
We don’t know what else to do, as it seems that the problem is still being kicked down the road with no one willing or able to pick it up. What would you do?
Both my staff and I are painfully aware that there are no easy solutions.
A few months ago I wrote about the plight of a woman who said she used to manage a small shopping center where homeless people would sleep in the bushes. Every Monday, Barbara’s crew would pull a 33 gallon trash can of beer cans and bottles out of the bushes.
She added, “We had to hose off the doorways in the courtyard in the mornings because they would urinate on the doorsteps and defecate in the parking lot. They would vomit on the walls.”
Barbara, whose comment initiated the writing of the column referred to above, said she knows this is a difficult situation for everyone concerned.
She added, “My personal experience has been that some want and will accept help but there’s a subset that don’t. (It’s a) hard place for those who care for the less fortunate, but also deserve to not have the things they’ve worked hard for destroyed. I don’t know the answer.”
I can’t disagree with Barbara, but we need an answer nonetheless. I pray that it doesn’t take a fate similar to the terrible one suffered by Amber Archibeque in 2008 to bring about change.
If you’d like to get involved in a solution or want to dialogue about the issue, email firstname.lastname@example.org