Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. That happened to me last week. My husband had a heart attack. My healthy husband, my no smoking, minimal drinking, no fat, healthy husband. Our world was in a bit of a turmoil. He is doing fine after a stint to repair a 100 percent blockage in a significant artery. Thank God for Drs. Ortiz and Armand and Clark Memorial Hospital. They were on it. Our family will be forever grateful. Clark has done right by my family and we are really lucky to have that hospital in our community; we are blessed on many levels to have the services we have here.
So much we take for granted. Even each other. We assume everyone is doing what they should be doing and challenge little those in power. We sit back in silence as some pick up the gauntlets and fight for the rights of others who have little, and watch as they are often criticized for doing just that. If almost losing someone does anything, it makes you understand how little time you have to do the work you need to do in this world. Needless to say, as I sat through procedures and by my husband’s bed, I had time to think and work on issues that are important to me and to my community.
One of those issues was the closing of the hotel in Clarksville and the possibility of many being displaced. We worked hard to pull together a group of people who could help in that and the partnership has been wonderful with people from several organizations joining hands to help resolve the issue, including Sen. Ron Grooms, Rep. Ed Clere, the Town Council of Clarksville, and a host of other elected officials. The media has been an important element in getting the word out to the community and in helping us garner resources. It has been amazing to watch what happens when people work together to solve a problem.
It is not going to be an easy task because we have a serious shortage of truly affordable housing in Southern Indiana. Everybody knows that, and yet we continue to fight efforts to develop affordable housing. Not in my back yard is ugly. It has reared its head many times in our community and will again. The folks in that hotel have resources, but many have issues as well, which prohibit them from having enough money to “just go out and get housing.”
We plain don’t have enough housing. Most of those units available require $950-$1,000 a month for newer units or if it is subsidized, as in New Hope's housing, the waiting lists are long. So for people at or below 30-50 percent of poverty, there are very limited solutions. According to federal standards, if you earn $23,050, you live at 100 percent of poverty; at 50 percent, you would be earning $11,525; and at 30 percent of poverty, you are earning 6,915.00 per year. At our shelter, we actually have people earning those amounts. How can they live affordably here or anywhere else? Could you? How would you feed your family? How could you get to work? How could you afford medication? School supplies? Clothes? The list goes on and on. Things we take for granted every day that aren't available to many, even though they are working very hard.
Yet they aren’t welcome. They work in our restaurants, cook our food, serve us as maids and busboys, clean houses, babysit, work in factories, at convenience stores, and in very difficult situations, and yet we do not plan for them to be housed anywhere. Why?
It isn’t Biblical. Christ said to take care of the least among us and that we would stand before God and have to answer how we did that, yet we claim to be a Christian nation, a Christian community — until affordable housing is proposed in our neighborhoods. I recently spoke to an elected official who said people just did not want it in their specific neighborhood and yet no real solution was offered when I asked if not there then where?
We can’t toss people out like they don’t belong here, they do. We need them as much as they need us. It is about humanity. Every single human being is worth something. A place to live that is not an emergency shelter is not too much to ask. We need to give to those who need us. It isn’t just our responsibility, it is our humanity. If we lack compassion, if we fail to plan for our whole community, we lose a part of ourselves. We become what we loathe when we fail to be compassionate and caring. It is what is required of us as human beings.
As we move forward in the next few weeks in trying to develop solutions, we should lead with both our hearts and our heads, we should join hands with the poorest and we should promote heathier relationships that will foster growth and prosperity for our entire community. We should do as we were asked to do and take care of our brothers and sisters living in poverty.
— Barbara Anderson, Jeffersonville, is executive director of Haven House Services Inc. Reach her by email firstname.lastname@example.org.