Christmas is out of sight

Yes, Christmas is over in Marietta and the harsh, cold reality of another winter in the Ohio Valley is upon us. The lucky ones among us are off to warmer places to escape the cold or at least retreat to warm homes with cable tv and hot beverages at the ready. What do the homeless do? Unfortunately, they are sequestered in our wooded areas and public lands where no one sees them. A lucky few are able to find shelter from the rigors of winter by sleeping on someone’s couch until the weather improves.

While the homeless may be largely “out of sight” in Marietta and Washington County, the interesting part is that the homeless people are people with stories, just like the rest of us.

Ask the concerned citizens of the West Side in Marietta who regularly provide food and firewood to the seven homeless camps located in the city. Ask the volunteers at the community breakfast offered each Saturday morning from the First Congregational United Church of Christ on Front Street. Ask the police officers who are sometimes called to remove homeless individuals from parks and public areas when they have overstayed their welcome. They all know the truth: the community is at times relieved that the homeless are “out of sight.” We aren’t sure what to do or how to help.

If a day time shelter or drop in center were to actually come into being, the homeless might suddenly be visible and a part of the community. The homeless veteran might discover that he is eligible to receive a pension and move into a permanent living situation. The homeless person who has been “couch surfing” for years, might discover that a case manager from behavioral health could help him find a safe place to stay with proper supports in place. The homeless person, who struggles with physical illness; might actually get treatment for a lung condition that he developed, while working long hours in a coal mine years ago.

These are the stories that are uncomfortable to hear but hear them we must. If the homeless remain on the edges of our community then truly Christmas is “out of sight” as well. To their credit the Marietta City Council has been working to address the challenge of homelessness in the city and will be seeking action again at their meeting Jan. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Readers are encouraged to follow the meeting via the city’s Facebook livestream.

Teresa R. Porter



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