Help with basic necessities a community effort

Help with basic necessities a community effort

Letter to the Editor:

As members of the Wooster Homelessness Task Force, we would like to share some thoughts about the situation of homeless people in downtown Wooster. Recent discussion of the curfew passed by the city council on July 6 has again created concern about people living and sleeping on downtown streets.

Clearly there is no reason why downtown residents should have to listen to loud noise on the square during the night, and downtown business people should not have to cope with a mess left behind by people sleeping in their doorways. Perhaps these situations can indeed be improved by the curfew or the removal of tables and some seating from the square. But a curfew bans everyone from the downtown, and less seating makes our public spaces less available to everyone.

Let us focus our energies now on more comprehensive solutions for those with few sanitation facilities, places to wash, fresh drinking water, and, above all, no safe and clean place to sleep. Especially during this pandemic when so many public buildings and churches are closed, why not ask how we as members of the Wooster community — the faith and civic groups, social service agencies, downtown businesses, and local government — can work together to provide more of these basic necessities?

Much has already been done. The city administration has opened restrooms at Schellin Park; St. James Episcopal Church and Westminster Presbyterian Church have sponsored a portable sanitation facility; individuals and faith groups have donated hand sanitizer, masks, bottled water, food and hygiene supplies to Trinity United Church of Christ (more of these donations are always welcome and may be dropped off at the church); and churches have continued to provide meals or food pantries during the shutdown.

The city government and Wayne County Commissioners are supporting the Salvation Army Living Room project, which will offer space for rest, laundry and connection to social services during the day when that space can be safely opened.

Much remains to do: for example, the creation of ongoing, nightly, safe shelter for our homeless fellow citizens beyond what is currently available. Reliable shelter offers the stability and security that enables people to move into permanent housing when that opens up, to address physical and mental health, to receive benefits, to look for work, and to regain the confidence and dignity we all value.

The Wayne County Housing Coalition has recently added additional shelter space to its five-year plan. The Wooster Homelessness Task Force, a volunteer group of local citizens, is working with them and other community agencies to establish such shelter. Achieving this goal will take a strong coalition and wide-spread community support. But its achievement will benefit the whole Wooster community.

As our plans develop, we will look for community partners, financial assistance and volunteers. We hope you will join us.

Susan Figge


Editor’s note: This letter was submitted on behalf of the Wooster Homelessness Task Force.

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