Worrying about the homeless

Published 9:21 pm Monday, November 7, 2011

My husband and I love camping. We enjoy “roughing” it, meaning we sleep in a tent instead of in a climate-controlled camper. After temperatures climbed back into the 80s in mid-October, it seemed safe to set a camping trip for the last weekend of the month.

But, thanks to the pendulum that is Virginia weather, going camping should have been the last thing we did.

We should have called the whole thing off when forecasted temperatures fell below 40 degrees overnight, but we didn’t.

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When the waitress at a pizza place we stopped at on our way to the campground predicted they’d find us only after we thawed next spring, we could have taken a hint. But we didn’t.

And when it started raining and didn’t stop the whole first day, we should have packed back into our cars and driven right back home. But we didn’t.

Instead, we forged on, determined to have one last camping trip.

Despite one sleepless night, we bundled ourselves in four layers of clothing just to keep warm enough to shudder beneath five blankets. But we did not freeze to death as predicted.

Instead, we created some good memories.

Although we can laugh about it now, thoughts of that chilly night leave me glad that we chose to go camping.

For some, roughing it is not a choice. There are many across the United States and in Suffolk who are forced to live in their cars or on benches or wherever they can find a place to rest.

And, I’m sad to report, it’s difficult for Suffolk’s homeless to find aid. A quick search of city services and local charities left me more confused about where one might be able to turn.

The city’s last good option — the ForKids-run Suffolk House — was shuttered this summer. ForKids still offers some help for homeless Suffolkians in the form of a hotel voucher program, which provides families up to 30 days of emergency shelter in communities throughout the region.

While the recession we’re suffering under explains the group’s reasoning, it makes for bad timing. As the effects of the economy’s downturn spread, more are finding themselves relying on shelters that don’t have enough money to help.

With temperatures dropping, I’m left with a sick feeling in my stomach and concern for those who have no support system in place.

With no easy way to help, we can only give what we can, and pray that shelters, food banks and other community service organizations in the area can stand in the gap and help those without the means to help themselves.