I have met the enemy…

If you were to travel to Reading or Norristown or Lansdale or Phoenixville or Allentown, or almost any town and asked where the homeless shelter was, you would readily find an answer. You would most likely be told where folks in need would go in the daytime, and where they can sleep. 

In Pottstown, there is no such place during the daytime, all year long.

In Pottstown, The Salvation Army has a long and beautiful history of providing day and night shelter for families. This history isn’t about drug addicts or laziness or violence. It is about being sure that families with children don’t have to live in tents in the woods. It is a loving effort, run so well that Pottstown has every right to be proud. Of course, The Salvation Army cannot begin to serve all of those who come to their door in need and crisis. 

In Pottstown, The Warming Center at Al’s Heart is now providing a safe, warm and dry place for single people in the winter months. Al’s Heart will not be open next year. There will be no shelter like this next year. There will be no winter shelter in Pottstown next year, and I want to tell you who is to blame.

First off, you cannot blame PAED ( Pottstown Area Economic Development). They are quite clear about what they are interested in. Their Mission Statement boldly says that they are interested in economic development. They want to get more money in taxes, create jobs and improve or remove buildings in need. They even have the Pottstown Borough Manager as a board member.Interesting. They have no stated interest in the lives of the poor or marginalized as their mission.

Also, you cannot blame the borough council. They will tell you all about how they are unable to have a homeless shelter in town. But let’s face it, these good people are elected, and I can assume that they are of the belief that the folks in their ward don’t care about the homeless.. 

But here is who you can blame. Blame the people that perpetuate the foolish notion that providing care for people in need will somehow make their hometown worse. That suddenly people that live in Pottstown will invite thousands of violent lazy drug addicts to our town. That is unproven nonsense that people say when they think that they are more deserving of life’s necessities than others. It’s what people say when they don’t know any better.

Blame the people that support and elect the council members who vote to keep the marginalized at risk. 

As you can see, to quote Walt Kelly, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” That’s right, us. You and me,

We are the ones who will not speak up en masse and elect council members that are not indifferent to the needs of those that struggle to live on the margins. 

We don’t tell PAED that what they are doing is good, but they  should stay out of matters that are not included in your mission. 

I have been to L.A. Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenixville, Seattle, Lansdale, San Francisco and Norristown. In each of those places you will find people working for economic development, and other people providing services for those in need. They are not mutually exclusive. In fact, both groups are necessary for a town to be healthy in the greater sense.

Next Winter there will be no winter shelter in Pottstown, even though a building has been donated for that purpose and a million bucks in matching funds have been promised.

It’s our own fault.