Due to a potent combination of indifference and a lack of knowledge, along with the position of Pottstown borough council, street homelessness can only increase next winter.
It is a shame that it will come to this, particularly because a kind gentleman has offered a building for shelter. Also, there has been a promise of significant matching funds; enough to provide people with a safe, warm and dignified place to go.
Sadly, the people and the local government and Pottstown will not allow this to occur. It is convenient to blame the borough council. Of course their response is that there is an ordinance in place that will not allow shelter in Pottstown. However, shelters, by virtue of the population that they serve, must be walkable.
The awful truth is however that everyone else in Pottstown allows this to occur. I like to believe that if all of the Pottstonians truly understood the situation, they would force this situation to change and I believe they would encourage and invest in it.
I fully understand why people think that it isn’t good to see so many poor folks on the streets in Pottstown. But we have to recognize that most of those people are not homeless, but they are Pottstown residents.
What is difficult to understand though is that the people in power that say they don’t want to see poor folks on the street also will not invest in the change that will give them somewhere to go. This is unique to Pottstown. Many of our neighboring sizable towns support daytime and overnight shelter for those in need. You can look it up.
The greater issue I believe is this. Next November, as things begin to cool down there is no plan to provide any Shelter for homeless folks and Pottstown. My assumption is that the thirty or so people that will sleep in a shelter this winter will need to find a warm place on the street. Or, they will find some way to get a tent or a blanket and camp out in nearby woods. This is quite temporary because local police have been known to tell those camping out that they need to leave and they are encouraged to head towards Berks county. I rather doubt that Berks county has encouraged them to say that.
Here is the long and short of it. Like every other town around us there will always be a homeless population. We can come together as a community to provide somewhere safe for them during the day, and at night, or we can pretend that we don’t have to do anything and then complain when we see them huddled in a sleeping bag on the sidewalk. This can and should change. I really have no confidence that the borough council will have any reason to act with appropriate kindness and mercy until thousands and thousands of voices tell them that this is something we must accomplish together.
I tremble for my town of Pottstown when I hear the Haves telling the Have Nots where they may walk, or sit, or sleep.
This is so very true Dennis. I too like to believe the issue is unintentional ignorance and understanding on how many folks (Pottstown residents) struggle with housing insecurity on any given date. However, I also can not be that naive as I, you, and countless others have spread the truth and educated those in decision making power about the situation.
In the 2020/2021 winter season 131 different individuals from Pottstown stayed at the seasonal Warming Center. This season, 2021/2022, between November 3rd and today December 24th there have been 63 who have taken advantage of this warm, safe place to sleep. The need is not going to disappear and will in fact only grow if we as a community do not put in the work to help the unhoused become housed and rehabilitated.
The ‘proof of concept’ has taken place in thousands of local municipalities across the country, you can look this up. It has also taken place right here in Pottstown over the past couple of years. Our community has proven for over 17 years that it does not want people to freeze to death in the overnight hours during winter-but for 17+ years has done nothing to improve on that ‘standard’. The past winter season and this current one the local warming center has been able to ensure they are only serving those who are from Pottstown. They have been able to work with several local private, faith-based, and government funded agencies to walk with people through their homelessness, mental health needs, addictions, domestic violence, and the countless other reasons our residents find themselves in this difficult situation. You can see last years’ stats here: https://www.pottstownlift.org/newsletter
I encourage-no, I urge you to speak up and speak out your opinions on whether or not we as a community should ignore this human issue right here in our backyard or allow those who have been helping to continue to help and support their efforts. Support their efforts by looking at the data and allowing the informed, the professionals, and experienced to do what they do-not by attempting to reinvent the wheel and cause delays that will just prolong the issue.
Homelessness in Pottstown, as anywhere, can either be lessened by the hard work and time put in by those willing to do so or continue to get worse as more become homeless and those who are can not get what they need to no longer be homeless. This is not opinion or thought, this is a fact.