By Mary Ann Kirsch
I am writing on behalf of the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter in response to Dave Ryan’s June 24 article, “No Handouts for Homeless.” I represent 2,000-plus volunteers who have come to know the unsheltered people of Davis in the past seven years of the shelter operation.
First, the article states that “faith-based groups” signed off on the report but the Interfaith Shelter was not one of them. In all fairness, I will add that we have been invited and will be attending the next meeting.
The issues connected with homelessness are as complex as the mystery of humanity itself. And there is no single solution to the issues involved. Clamping down on panhandling is dealing with a symptom; it is not a solution. Unsheltered people cannot be lumped into one group called “the homeless” because they are individuals who have gifts and who have blind spots, just the same as all of us.
Why would responding with generosity to such individuals be considered a bad thing? In my opinion, generosity is to be applauded. I see it in the many volunteers who care and give from their substance at the shelter.
The article quotes from the “point in time” census, citing an estimated increase of 116 to 125 unsheltered individuals in Davis. Our records at the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter show an even greater increase at our shelter of 127 individual adults and seven children, a definite change in the number and nature of the guests we serve.
In previous years, we had an occasional child as a guest, but never the number of families and children we had last year or the frequency of their nights in the care of the host congregations. The shelter was open from Dec. 1 to March 13 and during that time we had at least one family for 50 to 60 percent of the nights.
The guests that we had at the shelters most consistently and often were from Davis. The Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter is open for 15 weeks. Our records show that 41 percent of our guests who are from Davis spent between five and 15 weeks at our shelter. These individuals have lived in Davis from one to 46 years and some were born here.
The mission of the interfaith shelter is to provide emergency shelter. Addressing the root causes of homelessness is important to us but is beyond the scope of our resources. These causes need to be addressed.
The city of Davis is right in encouraging citizens to support programs that assist our poor, but more discernment is needed. Let’s not lose the spirit of Davis generosity and fair-mindedness in the process.
— Mary Ann Kirsch is a Davis resident. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org