Our homeless neighbors deserve "the fierce urgency of now" too.
To embody this "fierce urgency of now," is to work with the understanding that crisis is always happening, and so should our compassion, education and efforts.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to elevate, and the lockdown ensues, the energy to help our community has elevated. In many beautiful and generous ways our community has come together to support one another.
But what about our homeless neighbors? What about them?
On a cold and rainy night, with temperatures dropping below 32 degrees, just days before Greene County issued the 30-day stay-at-home order, hundreds of our homeless neighbors were left with little to no access to shelters, parks or public places to exist. That night, The Connecting Grounds church coordinated a collaborative effort of passionate and compassionate community members, along with empathetic leaders of churches, businesses and community organizations to provide a warm, safe space to sleep for our homeless neighbors. This effort was nearly thwarted by bureaucracy.
Our city leaders and officials chose to convene a task force days later.
The Connecting Grounds church, along with lots of support from caring community members, continue to love and serve our homeless neighbors daily by providing meals, blankets, hand sanitizer and a gamut of whatever the team and community can collect to meet needs.
As most of us are blessed with the safety and comfort of shelter, food and loved ones, hundreds of unsheltered souls wander our Queen City streets, more visible and more vulnerable.
The crisis of homelessness and poverty is nothing new. But how have we, and how are we creating sustainable change? How is it that we can note our rate of poverty and homelessness in Springfield yet have no concrete plan to house them safely and securely during a global pandemic? This is a public health issue for every citizen of Springfield. We cannot provide for the safety of all citizens without addressing the safety of some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
Real people are more than data points. We must pair our passion with the reality of a sense of urgency. Our homeless neighbors cannot wait for the slow movement of bureaucracy. Lives are at stake today.
Let us remember MLK's words: "There is such a thing as being too late."
We must acknowledge that this is not what community looks like. Our homeless neighbors deserve justice, and they deserve "the fierce urgency of now" too.
Springfield NAACP Executive Board
Toni Robinson, Chapter President