FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Giving the Homeless the Cold Shoulder

by WALTER BRASCH

A regional advocate for the rights of the homeless says actions by Sugar Notch officials to deny shelter to homeless men may be based upon fear and a lack of knowledge.

About 40 homeless men were scheduled to receive temporary shelter at the Holy Family Roman Catholic church in Sugar Notch for a week beginning Jan. 11. About three dozen churches in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton region each shelter the homeless for one or two weeks a year. Professional staff usually work with, and stay with, the homeless. However, borough zoning officer Carl Alber, apparently acting under Council direction, issued a letter that threatened the church with a $500 fine for each day it housed the homeless. Councilman Herman Balas, a member of the church, said that Council was acting for safety and citizen welfare. The Rev. Joseph Kakareska told the media he has no plans to deny shelter to the homeless for the week. Sugar Notch is a town of about 950 residents, about five miles southwest of Wilkes-Barre in northeastern Pennsylvania.

A public council meeting, Jan. 4, led to a yelling contest among the Council and members of the audience; most of the Council and residents claimed the homeless could pose “problems,” with others claiming the problem had nothing to do with the homeless but with following proper zoning ordinances. However, the church is zoned R-1 (residential) and in a residential area. Council kicked the problem to the Zoning Commission, but indicated that if the church files an appeal, with a $350 fee, it would allow the homeless to stay in the church for a week. It’s an “olive branch,” claimed council president Charlene Tarnalicki. There was no ruling that if the church loses its appeal if it would still be liable for up to a $3,500 fine.

“This is not a zoning issue, but an issue of fear by residents,” says Gary F. Clark, executive director of the Northeast Pennsylvania Homeless Alliance. “Most homeless pose absolutely no threat to any citizen,” says Clark. The homeless, says Clark, often have day jobs, and are sheltered only in evenings. Clark says that with the Recession, more persons have been laid off from jobs they may have had for several years, and have been unable to meet mortgage payments on houses. Council’s concern about the homeless, according to Balas, was that they could be violent or be drug users.

However, Clark says that while some of the homeless may have alcohol- or drug-induced problems, most are “just trying to get by.” About 3.5 million people will be homeless at some point this year, with almost half being children, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. About 16,000 Pennsylvanians are homeless on any given night, according to the Pennsylvania Interagency Council on Homelessness. About one-third of homeless men are veterans, “many with post-traumatic stress disorder that keeps them from a stable life,” Clark says. It is unlikely, he says, that they pose any threat to public safety.

Clark points out that it is unacceptable during the Winter, when snow lies on the ground and temperatures drop into the teens, to have anyone “trying to survive on our streets.” Shelter, says Clark, “is a basic human need and many more problems are created when this need is not met.” The “true measure of a society,” says Clark, “is how it treats its most needy.”

The “movable shelter program,” run by Wilkes-Barre’s non-profit VISION program, and with the support of numerous churches that give temporary shelter and meals to the homeless, has had relatively few problems, says Clark. VISION director Vince Kabacinski told Council he has offers of legal support not only from local organizations but from some as far away as Arizona. “I didn’t ask Sugar Notch to become part of the problem with the ‘not in my backyard’ ” attitude, he said.

On a sign in front of the church is the message, “Jesus was homeless, too.”

WALTER BRASCH is author of 17 books, a syndicated columnist, and professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University and recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award. You may contact him through his website, www.walterbrasch.com

 

 

More articles by:

Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues journalist. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an analysis of the history, economics, and politics of fracking, as well as its environmental and health effects.

February 21, 2018
Cecil Bothwell
Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear
Ajamu Baraka
Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire
Edward Hunt
Treating North Korea Rough
Binoy Kampmark
Meddling for Empire: the CIA Comes Clean
Ron Jacobs
Stamping Out Hunger
Ammar Kourany – Martha Myers
So, You Think You Are My Partner? International NGOs and National NGOs, Costs of Asymmetrical Relationships
Michael Welton
1980s: From Star Wars to the End of the Cold War
Judith Deutsch
Finkelstein on Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist? 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
War Preparations on Venezuela as Election Nears
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Military Realities
Steve Early
Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance
Ali Mohsin
Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump
Julian Vigo
UK Mass Digital Surveillance Regime Ruled Illegal
Peter Crowley
Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’
Andrew Stewart
Black Panther: Afrofuturism Gets a Superb Film, Marvel Grows Up and I Don’t Know How to Review It
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail