Editorial – Counting the homeless

Glenn Rutherford
Glenn Rutherford

Pope Francis knows the importance of home. He knows the value of families and how vital they are to building the church, our communities, a better world.

He said as much during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia last year. Families, he said, are vital for building all that’s good in the world; they provide a place where we can teach each other that “love must be freely shared for faith to grow.”

Our families and our homes “are true domestic churches,” he said at the meeting’s closing Mass. “They are the right place for faith to become life, and for life to become faith.”

The pope also noted the “little gestures” of love that “exist daily in the lives of family.”

“These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family,” he said. “They get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion.”

And they are things found in the home.

So consider the plight of the homeless. Consider, as the temperatures finally begin their annual plunge, the plight of those who have no where to go to experience the “little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion.”

Make no mistake, the homeless are among us. Despite dramatic progress in recent years — especially when it comes to ending homelessness for veterans — there remains work to be done before this blight can be removed completely from our community.

Some of that work will continue Jan. 28, when the local Coalition for the Homeless will hold its annual Homeless Street Count.

Volunteers are needed to help the coalition verify the number of people sleeping outdoors in Metro Louisville this winter. The count has been scheduled from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. that Thursday, and Jen Montgomery said that most years about 200 people show up to help with the effort.

“The more people we have, the more volunteers, the more of the city we can cover,” Montgomery said. “So if we could get 250, 300 people, that would be great.”

Last year’s effort found 71 people sleeping outside on the night of Jan. 28, 2015. That, of course, is no where near the number of people considered homeless in Metro Louisville. Many of those people, on any given night, are in temporary shelters.

In fact, last year’s census report indicated that the “number of homeless people in our city has dropped and that shelter bed usage has increased.”

The report was released last May 7 and indicated that, including the 71 people found sleeping outside on the night of the “homeless count,” the city had what it called “7,380 unduplicated homeless people.” That number was down from 8,608 the previous year, an indication that a lot of effort by the coalition and others, has worked.

There still remains work to be done, obviously. Homeless coalition officials and those from Jefferson County Public Schools have indicated that perhaps as many as one in nine children in public schools are homeless. That’s a situation that everyone working to solve homelessness hopes to one day eliminate entirely.

There are other housing issues to address, too, in addition to helping the homeless. The inequality of mortgage availability; the continuing racial and economic segregation of the community; and others.

But on Thursday, the 28th, you have the chance to join others who are having a positive impact on at least this one serious community issue. We can help count the number of those sleeping outside.

And then we can help find places for everyone to live.

Glenn Rutherford
Record Editor Emeritus

Glenn Rutherford
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Glenn Rutherford
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