Earlier this year I spoke to the city council at the final meeting before the warming shelter in our town finally got everything in place to build the new shelter around the corner from my house. This is part of what I shared.
Last week a 40-year-old man was found dead after the coldest night of the winter season. The police have not released his name pending notification of the family. If they can find his family. I don’t know that he was homeless. They do say there was no foul play. I say there was plenty of foul play if he was homeless and turned away from the shelter because they were maxed out on space. They are maxed out every night during winter and since Covid probably every night of the year.
There was not foul play by Day by Day Warming Shelter but foul play for years by elected officials who chose to not do whatever it takes to allow the shelter to use EMPTY land to build a larger more efficient building so that people don’t freeze to death on Main street or anywhere else. This is not just about a place to sleep but about meals and programs that will help our neighbors rebuild their lives and be able to be self-sufficient and have a roof over their heads.
I walked my dog Sunday morning and the wind chill made it feel like -1. I knew it was a short potty walk and I also knew that I would be able to go into my comfortable warm home for the rest of the day. As I walked I looked to my right and saw a human being on the cold ground on the lot that has been vacant for far longer than I’ve lived here. The lot that is a perfect location for a larger shelter. The man had his belongings and blankets and was huddling against the cold. I don’t know if he spent the night there or had just moved. But I’m guessing he wasn’t someone in this room right now who has the power to vote yes on this critical issue and begin changing lives.
As my dog raced home in the direction we had come, pulling me along the way because he was too cold to stay outside, we once again passed the homeless man shivering across from the tracks. What I thought about then was that if it’s too cold outside for my dog then it’s too cold for my homeless neighbors.
And these are our neighbors.
Last night on the news, nearly a year from when I spoke, I learned that our warming shelter was closed at the time when we need it most. Frigid temperatures, snow on the ground with more predicted, and Christmas just a few days away.
According to the local newspaper, the illegal drug use by guests and and a staff shortage, Day by Day Warming Shelter officials announced Tuesday the shelter,would be closed until January 9. Winnebago County executive issued an emergency declaration, saying the county will run a shelter at the same location, starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, with support from the city of Oshkosh
People who choose to work with our vulnerable population are usually underpaid, they have no benefit package to speak of, and it’s hard to know that no matter what you do there will always be hurting, broken people.
I usually sit down to write my blog and I have a point. A call to action. Not today. Today I am overwhelmed with the needs of our community and the world. I don’t have answers. Just prayers for our community and our world.