Letter at Length

City's not too small to help homeless

I read with interest the recent letter to the editor on Ashland's homeless by Mr. Harrell. I found much that I agreed with, but some of his points contradict my direct experience.

I am one of the coordinators of Ashland's Every Sunday Shelter (November-April) and the local Emergency Shelter (opening at temperatures of 20 degrees or below). The Presbyterian Church is our customary site with other churches providing backup space when necessary. Church groups provide donations toward low-temperature sleeping bags we distribute and also provide most of our volunteer hosts. It is a modest project in which participation is as rewarding to volunteers as to guests.

I was impressed by Mr. Harrell's call to "personal responsibility." I'd like to invite Mr. Harrell and others to find out first-hand more about this challenging issue by joining in as a Sunday Shelter host. I've been doing the shelter for six years and have no grand solution to homelessness. I'm a practical person and have found direct relationships most helpful to increasing my understanding. I know that I see unmet needs of many kinds and there are diverse parts to play in improving the situation.

Can and should the city play a part? I sympathize with the desire to control government spending; however, I am dismayed by the idea of people trying to organize effective actions with no city cooperation.

Our current City Council seems a stacked deck against helpful services. They have not taken seriously the ad hoc committee they set up to study the issue. The way they denied the committee's quite modest recommendation of a two-hours-per-week shower access at The Grove (at no expense to the city and with volunteers eager to help), feels like a slap in the face to those they appointed and to those of us who assumed the council's intent to act on the issues was genuine.

I think "personal responsibility" naturally radiates out from our hearts to our homes and then quite naturally to our community. I think it is inconsistent to think Ashland is too small to take on responsibilities and that even smaller units of "wonderful people and wonderful organizations" can meet the local needs without friendly city partnership.

Ruth Coulthard


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