Editorial February 2012

LETTER — The greater crime would be denying that teen homelessness is a problem

By LoriJo Schepers
Reader contributor
Posted Feb 27, 2012

Park Township —
Finally it has hit the news, and not from us. For years Barnabas Ministries and others have been talking about the number of homeless youth — and adults — using vacant rental property to find a safe place to sleep. For years, we’ve been receiving a kind of “whatever” attitude. Because this population, for the most part, is hidden, it is difficult to prove their existence. Until now.

The Feb. 20 Sentinel carried a story about a rental property near Pine Avenue and 17th Street in Holland where “someone” had broken in and, according to Holland police reports, not stolen anything. The person simply used insulation and curtains to create a place to sleep.

No question: Breaking and entering is a crime. When found, the individual needs to face the consequences. It can also be argued that a community as wealthy as Holland — and Ottawa County — is guilty of an equally tragic crime in not having more opportunities for the homeless to find refuge.

The Holland Rescue Mission has been a beacon of hope for so many adults for so long; they deserve our continued significant support. If this person is under 18, the closest emergency shelter for them (unless they are with their family) is in downtown Grand Rapids or downtown Muskegon. We cannot continue to pretend we don’t know that every single day we are leaving homeless, unaccompanied youth out on the streets. Barnabas has been communicating this need for more than two decades, and we are finally at the point of getting ready for site work to be done on the Barnabas House in Holland Township. This news story reminds us the need is greater than most of us realize, and work together to make the Barnabas House a reality as soon as possible.

“Guilty” will be the verdict if the one who broke in is found. “Guilty” is also the label we all should wear for being too ignorant of our neighbors’ reality that we have some whose only answer to get out of the cold is to break into a vacant building.

LoriJo Schepers
Executive Director
Barnabas Ministries

Copyright 2012 The Holland Sentinel.
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