Monday, April 11, 2011

Dang it, Adam. You beat me to defending Rev. Lewis.

Actually, Adam Van Brimmer of the Savannah Morning News didn't beat me to the topic.  I actually didn't know about it until reading his column today.  Adam may not know diddly about college football, but his piece on The Old Savannah City Mission's plans for an emergency homeless shelter for women and children drop-kicked hypocrisy through the goal posts of reality.

(Yes, I know Adam used to vote on the AP college football poll when he was thumping the sports beat.  He knows I'm kidding.  Maybe.)

The Mission wants to build a shelter near the old Derst Baking Company warehouse on Mills B. Lane Boulevard.  OSCM is already using the warehouse to sell donated furniture and other goods to raise money for the marvelous work they do.  There isn't enough room on the web to adequately describe the impact the Rev. Jim Lewis, Connell Stiles, and all the other folks at The Mission have made on the lives of so many people.  Apparently, the fine folks who live near Derst fully support The Mission, too.  That is, as long as they keep their work and their people downtown or just feed a bunch of folks once a year at Forsyth Park.

You might think some of the concerns of the folks who would live near the shelter - safety, proximity to schools, property values - are legitimate, and taken at face value they sound as much.  But subject any of those arguments to a thimble's worth of scrutiny, and it's difficult to conclude anything other than Rev. Lewis's assertion: it's NIMBY as he called it, meaning not in my back yard.  Having seen some of those back yards, they need all the neighborly help they can get, but we'll save that argument for last.

Safety: Most images of the homeless are of one stereotype; disheveled, alcoholic, perhaps mentally ill men.  That would legitimately present a safety concern - that is if those men were to make use of the shelter.  But unless I am missing something, the shelter would be exclusively for homeless women and children, hardly a threat to the well being of one's person or anything else.

The shelter would be close to three public schools:  Because we wouldn't want homeless kids to be close to a school, now would we?  Oh, the horror.  Even if you think the public schools are ineffective when it comes to education, it's better than no schooling at all.

Property values would go down:  No offense to anyone who lives in that neighborhood, all very fine, mostly working class people, but come one, what property values?  Is someone about to pull a Native American burial ground or an oil well out of their rear end?  Perhaps the residents should trust the tents and tarps that many of the homeless use for shelter near Savannah-Ogeechee canal to take care of those property values for them.

In the interest of disclosure, Rev. Lewis has been a dear friend for almost four years, and I fully support him and The Mission.  That said, the opponents of this shelter, many of whom have shockingly been silent when given the chance to air their grievances in public, aren't even trying to make a serious argument if those issues are all they have to offer.  Perhaps in their world it's better to preserve the dingy, yellowish tone of their graying neighborhood than to have a sparkling new building that would, in all likelihood, boost the precious value of their own homes.  I suppose that means it's also better to look a homeless child in the eye and tell them no, you can't sleep here.

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