No Winners In This Fight

I will preface today’s column by telling you that no matter what follows, there will be no winners. What I am writing about will more than likely draw empathy from some and have others condemning me, too. In this business, you kind of get used to that.

If there is anything I wish to accomplish in writing these weekly columns is to just give my readers something to think about, sometimes entertaining, other times serious topics.

Today is a serious topic. Let me tell you what I witnessed recently.

I need not disclose the location, most of you can guess, but the other day I was stopped in traffic when I noticed a middle-aged disheveled man step out of the woods. In his hands he had two plastic bags like the ones you get at the grocery store.

He took several bottles of beer and soda from the bags and proceeded to throw the bags and some other trash onto the side of the road. He then walked away, back toward the woods.

I don’t know if I was more angry at his littering or the fact that he and others are continually allowed to leave their filth amid our city’s landscape. You can argue with me that perhaps this man and others like him have mental issues that keep them from conforming to a more polite society. You can tell me about the disease of addiction that keeps them in tents rather than living with rules and regulations like the rest of us.

I get all that. I know firsthand the sadness and despair and pain that addictions can have. I don’t know a family that hasn’t been touched by such issues.

I have been encouraged by those in the medical field who go into our homeless camps and help these folks to not give them money. By doing so, you and I are only encouraging their addictions and, mostly likely, contributing to their early demise.

Then there are those who feel that religious teachings tell us to help the poor, clothe and feed the downtrodden, etc. I get that, too.

But there is a very thin line between helping and enabling.

Does it make my heart sad to see these homeless camps? Yes. Does it make me angry that they live so unclean and do little to change their ways? Yes.

And what about the owner of an award-winning hotel whose property has been abused, pilfered and littered by some of the transients who have camped out in a nearby abandoned building?

And how about the fire in the homeless campsite this summer that could have been devastating to the lives of its occupants?

Now that the city of Wheeling has taken action to eliminate these homeless camps, the battle of morally right and ethically wrong rolls on.

Do you ever wonder why Wheeling has such a growing number of homeless encampments? It’s because Wheeling has one of the most caring and generous populations when it comes to helping those less fortunate. The sheer number of faith organizations that offer food, clothing and money to help others is amazing for an area such as this. We have soup kitchens, food pantries, social and medical services all available to those in need. There is a homeless coalition, Salvation Army, Freeze Shelter and more that offer alternatives to those willing to give up their addictions and move on with their lives — under roof. People come here knowing they can get help.

I don’t know the solution to the problems of homelessness. I am not a social worker or minister or physician. I’m just a regular person trying to resolve this in my own mind.


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