To the editor:
Family Promise of Greater Rockingham County has had a long, hard struggle to get up and running in this area. Not all the churches were ready to jump on board because they were concerned about the approach and the liability of housing the homeless. Fundraising for a new service organization is always difficult to establish so that it can acquire the equipment and supplies to run effectively. But the hard-working people associated with it overcame all the obstacles and it is now meeting an urgent need.
The article that appeared in the Jan. 31 edition of The Eagle-Tribune I believe was unfair to Family Promise and certainly didn’t help to get more people on board to assist them. The pictures of the children peering out the window of the motel were certainly heart wrenching. The details about the timing and the quickness of the eviction I’m sure didn’t generate much enthusiasm for supporting the work of Family Promise. As with the operation of other shelters, the ground rules for those staying in the shelter are strict and have to be for the protection of others staying there and the staff. Absolutely nobody gets satisfaction from putting people out in the cold, especially children, but the entire operation cannot be placed in jeopardy because of the behavior of the few.
Maybe it is time for The Eagle-Tribune to do an in-depth series on homelessness in Salem and the surrounding area. I’m a minister with the Catholic Church in Salem and routinely we are contacted by people in need of shelter. Many of them are young people in the 20s and 30s who have been completely cut loose by their families. It’s hard to understand how some parents can wash their hands completely of their older children’s needs, especially with the frigid weather we’ve had this year. Is there irresponsibility on the part of the young adults? Sure there is, but hopefully they won’t have to pay for it with their lives.
The problem of homelessness in Salem needs a new solution, a new approach other than putting them up in the motels for a week and hoping they survive after that. With motel costs ranging from the low-$200s to the mid-$400s for a week’s lodging, no church can afford to house the homeless for very long. Certainly the motels are not in the business of housing people at no cost so another solution must be found. I for one don’t want to read about the person who was found frozen to death in Salem because he or she could find no warm place to stay.
Deacon David Costello
Saints Mary and Joseph Parish