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Homeless have no holidays

by Steve Bell
| December 24, 2010 8:00 PM

What's wrong with this picture?

A homeless man in Thompson Falls freezes to death in his car. We don't want to think about it, but last year, same thing happened to six people in Coeur d'Alene. In Spokane a homeless woman lives in her car with her dogs. Yes, I understand that homelessness is a complex problem. Some drink too much, but some have alcohol/drug addictions or mental illness. Before you remind me that there are those who truly choose that lifestyle, did you know that 23 percent of homeless men are veterans and 50 percent of those people are Vietnam vets (see National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers)? And somehow it seems that some of these vets ended up fighting a rich man's war.

LeBron James, basketball player for the Miami Heat, makes $14.5 million a year. Derek Jeter, Yankees shortstop, signed a three-year contract for $45 million. Tom Brady, who tosses footballs for the Patriots, has a four-year contract worth $72 million. Brady earns $25,000 per day. On the local level your very own Avista CEO Scott Morris earns a mere $8,000 per day. I spoke with a 32-year-old Coeur d'Alene man who told me what it is like. He has a sleeping bag and a piece of plywood under that. When it rains he can never get dry. He has risked freezing to death by living in an abandoned house (which he knows is wrong). His concern was for 65-year-old men who are not as healthy as he is and who are doing the same thing. Why doesn't he go and live in sunny San Diego (where there are even more homeless people)? That is because his son lives in Coeur d'Alene.

Why don't you see more of the homeless in Coeur d'Alene? It's because they are hiding. My friend tells me how the men in blue at times will come in and tear up their tents and break the tent poles. Before you totally blame the men in blue, someone up above them told them to do that. In the book, "Tell Them Who I Am" by Elliot Lebow, he spoke of the lives of homeless women:

"You are not needed anywhere, not wanted anywhere. Nobody cares what you do. All the dreams are gone forever. You're just hoping for some force to end the nightmare peacefully." Homelessness will not sell condos; I understand that. But this problem will not go away. When I was growing up in sleepy Moscow, Idaho, I always had a job whether it was a paper route or mowing lawns. My summer work paid my way through law school; you don't see that today. People had jobs. You didn't see the homeless problem we have today.

Praise be to Bill Gates, whose foundation proposes that the very wealthy donate 95 percent of their assets, and to Bill Clinton, who has made some positive changes and is doing the same thing with his foundation. Locally Duane Hagadone has been very generous and he has donated over $800,000 for scholarships.

What can we do? Be aware of the situation as many generous people donated some 350 blankets and sleeping bags for the campout at Harding School. Drop by Fresh Start at 16th and Sherman Avenue and bring some food, or donate that coat that sits in your closet that you never use. Family Promise is a group of churches that provides shelter for families for up to three months at various generous churches. The Union Gospel Mission plans a shelter for transitional people where they will be given shelter and training to help them reintegrate with society. They will teach people skills to get them on their feet again.

I have seen first hand the generosity of people in Coeur d'Alene, sometimes by those who have very little themselves. The Bible says, "He who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be heard." Steve Bell is a Coeur d'Alene resident.

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