DID YOU REALIZE LAKELAND HAD THIS MANY HOMELESS?
While many in the community choose to ignore or forget the number of homeless that live among us, it's especially hard to do when the temperature gets as cold as it has the past couple of nights. While many expect a large number of men and women living on the streets in Tampa or Orlando, many probably didn't expect to have such a large number amongst us in Imperial Polk County.
The Lakeland Ledger reports this morning that the city's three homeless shelters, run by the Salvation Army, Talbot House Ministries, and Lighthouse Ministries, have been filled to beyond their normal capacities the past couple of nights as the temperature has dropped into the 40s. The Salvation Army and Lighthouse Ministries reported more than 100 guests each spending the night during the past three days, with the larger Talbot House hosting more than 200 overnight. Those numbers reflect a beyond capacity status for all three shelters.
It's amazing to believe that according to a recent article in Lakeland magazine, which is published by the Ledger, LAKELAND, FLORIDA has a homeless population of nearly 2,500.
The homeless issue has come to a head in nearby St. Petersburg following the murders of two homeless men and city officials raiding a "tent city" of homeless people, slashing their tents citing code violations. The National Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group, plans to release it's annual report on hate crimes against the homeless at a news conference there early next month.
Thankfully, things have not gotten that serious here, but it is an issue that our leadership at all levels should seriously think about. As the fiscal gap between the classes continues to widen, and new construction in many cases doesn't seem to be focused toward lower middle class families, not to mention apartments rents continuing through the roof for many (those units that have not been converted into condos), I'm afraid we may see an increase in the number of men and women living on the streets. And remember that while many choose to picture many among the homeless as alcoholics and/or drug abusers stuck with panhandling for their next bottle or fix, that is by no means the case much of the time. While we may have trouble believing it, the truth is that many of us are likely one or two lost paychecks away from being in the same boat.
While the organizations mentioned above have truly done a yeoman's job and work hard at improving the personal situations for those who seek their help, it often seems like a drop in the bucket.