Friday, February 15, 2008

Homeless and living in a service truck...

A friend just phoned and told me they found a homeless man living in their service truck. It's clear he has been there a while and was likely going to return. He left his coat and some belongings in a garbage bag.

The truck is parked in Grand Blanc.

While she was telling me of their plight (what should they do, call the police, leave food?), my thoughts went to Josiah, the 18-year-old contestant who told the American Idol world last week that he lives in his car. While he said he wasn't exactly homeless, he cried moments later and said he was lonely and often scared. Looking at him sprawled out (or crammed into) the front seat of that car was heartbreaking. At least he was living in his car in a warm climate. The homeless man in my friend's truck hasn't been so fortunate with windchills dropping to way, way below zero in recent weeks.

And so we have it in this recession-bound nation of great wealth. We have a growing number of people who no longer have an appropriate shelter, whether it be in Los Angeles or Grand Blanc. With the mortgage crisis breathing down our necks, I can't help but wonder how many more will be seeking warmth in parked service vehicles. How long before entire families are cramming themselves into cars and trucks to survive the elements of their daily lives?

This issue of diminishing resources across the country is, in part, why I was so interested in attending the State of the County address last evening. What are our local leaders doing to help us survive? What hope do we have as the nation is only beginning to realize (or admit) there is a problem?

The address included the important fact that Genesee County is not alone in grappling with vexing financial challenges. Board Chair Woodrow Stanley said our political leaders in Lansing and Washington will have to play a large role in finding answers to these issues which if left unchecked, will become a major crisis for counties across our state.

Other exerpts include:
"Genesee County’s future and Flint’s future are bound tightly together.

"But what gives me cause for guarded optimism is the knowledge that we have been on this road before. We faced recession before. We faced plant closings before. We have faced double digit unemployment before. We have faced negative national press before.

"And friends, we’re still standing.

"Maya Angelou said it best when she stated, “and still I rise.”

"I believe with every fiber in my being that our community will continue to rise.

"We refer to ourselves as Genesee County, but isn’t Genesee community a more accurate description? Whether you live in Montrose or Mt. Morris, Goodrich or Genesee, Fenton or Flint, we all have the same hopes, dreams, and desires. We all want safe neighborhoods, safe schools, well-maintained roads, timely emergency response, good health care, and a robust economy. It is quite apparent that regardless of our zip codes, we are a community of common heritage and a shared destiny.

"In this historic presidential election year, it’s not uncommon to hear talk – a lot of talk – about the need for change. It seems this year especially people across this nation are looking for change, for hope, for a break with the status quo.

"For years, we have talked of economic transitions, especially in this community where we have been so closely linked to the automotive industry. Doing more with less has been a mantra we all have grown weary of hearing. I think it is safe to say we need something else. In fact, we need to move beyond transition to transformation, a fundamental change in how we approach public service delivery.

"Indeed, I feel a sense of transformation.

"... This transformation that I’m talking about isn’t just an upgrade of equipment and processes for county employees ... Going forward, we must, as an organization and community, embrace a cultural reorientation, a new way of thinking, a more entrepreneurial way of doing things – a more competitive way of doing things. This mindset must permeate every part of our community.

"Finally, consider that two weeks ago, the New York Giants were 14 point underdogs in the Super Bowl and they now own the Lombardi Trophy. Consider further that a mere two years ago, few people seriously believed that a freshman Senator by the name of Barack Obama could ever be a legitimate presidential candidate. Today he is the front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"Our community has been the proverbial 14-point underdog, the candidate given no chance of ever being competitive. Someone once said, however, “With but few exceptions, it is always the underdog who wins through sheer willpower.”

"Our nation stands on the brink of major political transformation. So too must Genesee County adopt this new attitude of transformation. We must activate our willpower. There is a time to let things happen, and a time to make things happen. It has been said, “You can never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

"I believe we are a community of destiny. I've never lost faith in our resiliency, our capacity to overcome. This community understands what it takes to survive- it's more than money, it's more than jobs- not that both are unimportant- we can survive without a lot of things, but we can't survive and be successful without heart, without compassion, without the reach down deep determination to succeed against all odds. We are best when we are watching out for one another, when we share our resources with others in need. When we turn to each other rather than on each other. When your hardship becomes my hardship. That kind of success and grit and determination can't be quantified in a magazine, in a newspaper, in the wrong opinions of people who say our survival defies logic.

"I do not ask to walk smooth paths nor bear an easy load. I pray for strength and fortitude to climb the rock-strewn road. Give me such courage and I can scale the hardest peaks alone, and transform every stumbling block into a stepping-stone."

I feel hope -- for me, for my family, for the homeless man living in my friend's vehicle. We are all in desperate need of transformation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

whistling .......................
You have a new theme song. "Always looking on the bright side of life whistle, whistle, whistle, whistle"

I hope to have a new one soon.
I am thinking motivational speaker
as a new career for you. What do you think?