I’m writing this on Mother’s Day. As a young woman, I never thought I would have my own children. I didn’t want them, really. I mean, I did, but I didn’t. I was the oldest of seven with two parents who had to work, so in many ways, when I left home at 18, I felt like I had raised six children. My mom was a strong woman, but short in stature. That didn’t matter, she could handle herself with people twice her size. She did not have a formal education. She came from Hazard, Kentucky, when she was pregnant with me. She wanted to give something better to her children than she had in Hazard. I jokingly say that I am first generation Jeffersonville.
To be real, I am kind of a regional kid. Born in New Albany; moved to Clarksville in the second grade, to Blackiston Mill, graduated from Clarksville High School; and, after I married, moved to Sellersburg, where we took our first child home; then on to Jeffersonville, where we have lived for 34 years. So, locally grown, but my loyalties are to all those communities. I want to see them all prosper, but honestly so, and that includes making room for all those who live here, poor, sick, addicted, wealthy, middle class, and those who are coming new to our community.
To do that, we have to plan for that, and in the context of planning for our community, we not only have a responsibility to make it “affordable” for those we choose to move here, but also to those who want to live here even if they don’t have incomes that are large enough to afford our inflated housing costs.
Every mother wants what is best for her child. It doesn’t matter how old the child is or where that mother thinks, grieves and prays for their well-being. I know because for years, I have housed mothers separated from their children for a variety of reasons. I watch them cry, hear them talk of the lives they used to have, and watch them as they try to figure out how to begin again.
Each of them has a story; all those in need have a story. It is sometimes tragic, but not of their doing. Sometimes, it is their mistake and not one they can undo easily. They need stability and a place to live to begin to address how they got here in the first place. Mariposa Springs would have been such a place. We do not know the outcome of the public hearings to come, but we do know the reality of need in this area for housing for people with disabilities, the homeless, and addicted. We all could say not in my back yard and we have said it over and over again, which is why there is such need. Efforts to develop homes that meet need are fought. Why? Many of those addicted are the children raised in this community and their addiction began here. How is it right not to house them?
It isn’t just about housing the homeless or addicted. Group homes for the developmentally delayed have been fought, even subdivisions that aren’t quite as costly as their neighbors’ have been fought, and even businesses and churches have been fought. I don’t understand and cannot explain it, maybe because I don’t want to. In my mind, we are one community, one with each other, and all of us make it a community, from the poorest to the richest, from the oddest to the best-balanced, from the sickest to those who are most well, and from the holy to those who are on the path to holiness. And as a tribute to all those Mothers whose children need us, we need to respond.
Maybe that area won’t house those who need it; it may well be pushed aside. But what do we lose as a community if we win in stopping something that could mean so much to so many. In a world full of angst and anger, it would be so nice to open our arms and welcome in those who have no place. I guess some will scoff at that, but to be welcoming to a stranger is how I have lived my life. I moved downtown because people often said you live in Capitol Hills, you don’t have to live with those people, you don’t live downtown. When it was time to move, I felt downtown was where I needed to be. After 20 years here, I know it is where I should be. It has its issues, but I love it, and I love the blended aspect of my community downtown. All types of people live downtown, rich, poor, old, young, sick, well, and lots of different ethnicities. It is a melting pot. When our families came over from whatever country they originated in, they came with hope, optimism, and fear. Some were welcomed, some were not. But none were stopped. We are here. In that, we should open our arms and welcome those wishing to find the sanctity of home among us.
— Barbara Anderson, Jeffersonville, is executive director of Haven House Services Inc. Reach her by email at email@example.com.