Recently, a Northeast family with a young child and an infant on the way was hit with a series of misfortunes, none of which could have been anticipated or avoided. They struggled with basic necessities, resorting to asking neighbors for food and diapers. It was only a short time until they lost their apartment. They asked neighbors for information about a temporary shelter as they searched for a place to live. They called every organization suggested, but no one had room for the small family.

This is a true story that can be verified by Trena Miller, the social worker at KCPD East Patrol and Community Interaction Officer Greg Smith.

They can also verify a shocking truth that few believe. That is, though some people experience homelessness as a result of misfortunes and hardships, many others choose to live this way, usually due to some combination of fear of authorities, addiction, and mental illness.

Social workers, police, and service organizations repeatedly reach out to homeless individuals to offer treatment and the resources they need only to be refused. Over time, they develop rapport with those who choose to be homeless and learn their stories. Many were bussed here from other nearby communities, most recently Topeka and St. Joseph.

I am trying to explain why recent articles from irresponsible local news organizations are deliberately trying to provoke outrage without examining the issues on which they are claiming to report.

People experiencing homelessness need help and the rule abiding service organizations are desperately trying to provide that help. We are a deeply generous city! If every dollar given to a pan handler and every loaf of bread that was passed out in a park was given to the established service organizations, our neighbors would all be fed, clothed, and set on a path for wellness and stability in their own community. Those who choose to be homeless would move along to the next generous community willing to support their choice to the detriment of their own neighbors needing assistance.

Our neighbors, many of them children, are fighting for resources alongside a group of people who choose to live outside the law, who make shelters sometimes very dangerous places, fill available spaces, and leave our neighbors cold and hungry. Every person who supports people who choose to be homeless incentivizes those people to stay and consume resources that would otherwise be available to people who did not choose to experience homelessness. Who would you rather feed? Your neighbor or someone who was bussed from an adjacent city that chose to shut down its services and get rid of “the problem” on our doorstep?

-Heather Welch
Northeast resident