We are celebrating a New Year. I love this time of year, the reflecting, the excitement around starting a new year and the new things it will hold, and the acceptance you feel for each other is so welcome. This year is no different than others. Lots of flurried activity in the past few weeks, lots of last-minute shopping, lots of reflecting.

What is different is that we are ending a decade. The new year 2020 will bring a whole new brand of excitement for me. It will be the first year in 36 years that I haven't been the director for the shelter. The new decade will bring much-needed changes for both me and the shelter. Pastor Moon and Park Memorial will provide strength and new resources to the shelter, which will let it grow and serve in a way we couldn't afford to do. I look forward to working with them in that effort as one of the community partners.

It is also the year Haven House Services will begin advocacy and resource building for housing and homeless services in a way that has been needed for years in this region. We look forward to working with you in making change happen that will allow for people who live at 30% or below of the poverty line to have access to safe, decent and affordable housing — affordable prices for their wage levels. That will require change, tough discussion and decisions, and commitment to providing the kind of housing in our community that is meant for all of its citizens. Our first forum will be Jan. 9 at 300 Spring in Jeffersonville. Please join us to begin this important conversation in an open forum and with a regional focus.

So many things promise to be different personally as our new decade opens: my son and his family are moving back from Michigan; my daughter gave birth last April to our first (and at this time) our only grandson; and we celebrated 36 years of marriage while experiencing a harsh reality, my husband had a heart attack. Not something we saw coming, but certainly a wake-up call. He is doing fine, but I am still a little more than nervous about the situation.

We have so much to be grateful for in this country, but oh so much to fight for. We have more poor than ever, but it is not poor without resources; we have working poor who have no place to live, and that has to change. We have medical care that has skyrocketed in cost, especially as far as the pharmaceuticals are concerned; education that is consistently underfunded; and opportunity that is denied simply by what is not made available to people. A free and public education was promised by our founding fathers and has consistently made opportunity a reality to many. As we approach the new decade, we need to examine what that means and recommit ourselves to that free and public education.

I remember growing up in Clarksville in the very poor part. We went to school every day. We didn't do free lunch (my mom wouldn't allow that); we either took lunch or she would work that much harder to buy lunch. She was too proud to admit we needed that help. Today, the same school system in Clarksville removed that barrier by making all food free to all students. So, we can deal with hunger and eradicating it through simple solutions if we choose to, but it is a choice on what we spend our money on. Hats off to the Clarksville School System.

It is 2020. In our lifetime we have talked, acted and reacted to major issues. All the while talking about cost and the responsibility of the poor to help themselves. We have created programming to serve, house and feed those who have less and we have defunded and decimated those programs, even when they were working. We have to do better.

In 2020 no one should be homeless because of a lack of affordable housing. That is the life written about in "Great Expectations," not 2020. Yet they do. In 2020 no one should die because of the lack of medical assistance, yet they do because it is not affordable. In 2020 a free and public education should exist in a strong and vibrant way with well-paid and well-respected teachers, it is our future. In 2020 we need to listen to a passionate young girl who cares about the earth we were given to take care of and really work on improving the climate. In 2020 we need to be honest about what it means to be an American, and lead the way we used to, without fear, with confidence, and with the knowledge that doing the right thing is what will make us great. Let that be our 2020.

Barbara Anderson is a local human rights activist. Contact her at barbanderson_1@yahoo.com.

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