Treating causes, not symptoms of homelessness in Sedalia

Travis McMullen - Contributing Columnist

Travis McMullen

Contributing Columnist

There are still people here in The State Fair City who don’t know we have a homeless problem. Homelessness is a problem in places like St. Louis, Springfield and Kansas City, right? It’s easy to live life in Sedalia and not see the problems just below the surface – there’s no uniform for the less fortunate so it is easy to internalize a reality where there just aren’t many people who don’t have homes.

But that’s not true. Each year volunteers go out into the nooks and crannies of the community and make a tally of the homeless so that they can better understand the level of need that exists on a local level.

You probably read Sedalia Democrat reporter Faith Bemiss’ story about a homeless person who spoke with the good people at the Heartland Recovery Resource Center and decided to create a little piece of art on the sidewalk in front of the Pettis County Courthouse.

It featured a shooting star with the words “believe” and “forgotten” written near it. It’s probably easy for local less fortunate individuals to think they have been forgotten. It’s true that we don’t have a homeless shelter, and the need is so great that it’s easy for great local organizations to be overwhelmed because they’re doing everything they can. There are resources, but they are not infinite.

This person wasn’t belligerent, destructive or obnoxious – they were just looking to fill a little bit of time with a little art. Someone in their position could spend most of their time committing petty crimes, drinking alcohol or doing drugs but this person decided to get creative instead.

Heartland staff noticed that this person appeared to have some sort of medical condition and attempted to get this person the medical attention they needed and were met with a handwritten note insisting that their assistance wouldn’t be required.

After months or even years of not receiving sufficient assistance it’s probably easy to start thinking you either don’t deserve it or don’t need it. That renowned American worth ethic can be toxic for those who have been chewed up and spit out by society and cause them to think they don’t deserve a better life because they haven’t filled their hard work meter enough to win the fabulous prize of having enough money to support themselves.

All of us are probably guilty at one point or another in our lives of looking down on the people who make up the local homeless population. There are countless reasons why someone might end up in that situation but you can rest assured it wasn’t because they woke up one morning and decided to become homeless.

Yes, they might have made a bad decision or two in their day but who among us hasn’t? Does that mean they deserve to eternally stay on the other side of the velvet ropes of the American dream? Does someone dealing with the disease of addiction deserve to be homeless? How about someone who lost their job suddenly and couldn’t find another one soon enough to stop the foreclosure? Nobody deserves it, and nobody in that situation deserves your scorn.

It’s easy to see we need a homeless shelter in Sedalia, but there are a lot of questions to answer before we can get started. Where is it going to be? Who is going to pay for it? How are we going to determine who gets a bed for the night and who doesn’t? We’ve got to make sure it is not just a shelter but a hub of assistance where people can get anything they might need to get back into society so we’re not just treating the symptoms of homelessness, but the causes.

Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.

Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.

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