Attack on RI Homeless

Did you all see the attack on Br. Ed and the homeless in today’s ProJo? If not here it is and my rough-draft of a response:

From the Providence Journal, Saturday, January 14, 2006:
I found my eyes getting misty as I read Bob Kerr’s Nov. 30 column, “The brother who arrived with a bouquet.” Then logic took over, and helped me choke back the tears.
I wondered why Brother Ed Phelan felt he had to “soak his clothes in cheap wine for two days” to get “the look, the smell, the incoherence” to pass as a homeless man. Doesn’t that mean the homeless must spend a good deal of the money they have on booze? Wouldn’t giving them more money just fuel their self-destructive habits?

I also remembered reading that almost all of the homeless receive some sort of check from a federal, state, or local agency. If they choose to put booze and drugs ahead of shelter and food in their list of priorities, why should the rest of us care? Of course, liberals think that those who work should just work harder to provide for those who won’t.

I also got to wondering whatever happened to all the vagrants, tramps, hobos, winos, and bums. One never hears of them anymore. Were they victims of some vast right-wing conspiracy, transported to some foreign shore in black helicopters? Or did liberals like Bob Kerr just anoint them with a new, more sympathetic moniker: homeless?

L’Heureax’s attack on Bob Kerr, Br. Phelan, and the homeless is an attack on human decency and all Rhode Islanders. In his piece (“Was getting misty-eyed, until logic kicked in,” January 14, 2006), L’Heureax wrongly suggests that all homeless receive a check from the Federal, State, or local government. That is simply wrong. Homeless funds are grants to agencies, not to individuals. The funds are used to support shelters, services, and soup kitchens. In Rhode Island, there are 6,020 people served by these funds. ONE QUARTER OF RI’S HOMELESS ARE UNDER THE AGE OF THIRTEEN (source: No, Mr. L’Heureax, these are not “vagrants, tramps, hobos, winos, and bums” as you so eloquently stated.

L’Heureax also facetiously asked why no one hears from them anymore. Again, he is in error. The Journal has covered the affordable-housing crisis in RI regularly. Just this fall, for example, Journal writer Cathleen Crowley wrote about a homeless family that was being driven from their make-shift home under the old 195 overpass (pg B1, 11/11/2005). Ironically, that article ran on Veteran’s Day. I say ‘ironically’ because there is an unconsciousably high number of veterans who are homeless as well. The fateful decision to cut mental health services in the 1980s evicted veterans and others dealing with issues of post-traumatic stress as well as other psychological and medical issues living in state and federal facilities. Like many people in need of services, some unfortunately tried to cope with their issues with alcohol. Others, being homeless in the winter weather, turn to alcohol because of the artificial feeling of warmth that alcohol can create. These are real-life issue that are devalued by cheap sound-bites and unresearched letters-to-the-editor.

For a man from a place called Hope, I believe Mr. L’Heureax does a disservice to the children and the veterans as well as all of Rhode Island homeless in his critique of Br. Ed Phelan.

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