David Rupkalvis

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As I write this, there is a massive cold front blasting almost the entire United States. Maps show two places that have been spared, the coastal regions of Oregon and California and almost all of Florida. Everywhere else is seeing record cold, snow, ice and wind.

In south Texas where I lived before moving to Oregon, the temperature is in the teens and even the Gulf Coast is covered in snow.

Seeing the cold front made me think about the homeless, many who flock to places like Coos Bay because we don’t have the extreme weather that impacts much of the rest of the country. There are lots of homeless around the country, especially in places like Texas that are generally warm throughout the year. And right now, I’m worried about them.

The cities I have lived in around Texas are different in many ways, but they seem to have a unified outlook when it comes to the homeless. First, try to ignore them. Second, when that becomes impossible, try to pass laws to make them go elsewhere. I’ve always believed many prefer to bury their heads in the sand and just hope anything bad disappears.

But, as we know clearly here, that is not going to happen. When you ask city leaders along this region what the biggest issue facing their communities is, the homeless is always has a top three spot. I’m glad we at least acknowledge the homeless are here and something needs to be done to help them.

Here’s my viewpoint, and it’s pretty simple. All people are worthy of decency and kindness and an opportunity to better themselves. What does that mean for the homeless? Just that they are people, too. They are in a rough spot, sometimes by choice, sometimes due to poor decisions they’ve made and sometimes due to just bad luck. But they are people, and they deserve kindness and compassion.

That doesn’t mean you have to give them money, but it does mean we should all hope for and work for solutions that will help as many as possible move forward with their lives.

Around us right now, two efforts are underway that could make a big difference for the homeless. In Coos Bay, the Devereux Center is working to find a location to build a tent campground for the homeless. The campground would give people a place to stay, a place to store what they own and a place to get help that could lead to jobs, paychecks and possibly a place of their own.

The Devereux Center is prepared to act now, but the challenge is finding the right location. Understandably, many people do not want a homeless campground near their homes, so politicians often struggle to approve them. But a campground miles away from anything would also prove to be useless for people who rely on their own two feet for transportation. I don’t have an answer for this, but I hope one is found quickly.

The second project ongoing is a partnership between Coos Health & Wellness and Operation Rebuild Hope. Coos Health & Wellness is looking to buy a hotel in North Bend to be used temporarily as a home for people who have to isolate due to COVID-19. In the long run, the hotel would be given to Operation Rebuild Hope and used to house homeless veterans.

Much like the plan with the Devereux Center, Operation Rebuild Hope would have strict rules for veterans who want to get off the streets – no drugs, no alcohol, no violence and you must be making progress toward becoming independent.

Coos Health & Wellness presented its plan to the North Bend City Council last week and got a mostly enthusiastic response. The one potential downfall is the same with anything trying to help the homeless. The location of the hotel is near residential homes, so there is a chance residents could raise concerns before a council vote.

I am in favor of both proposals because it shows our community does more than talk. We can all acknowledge homelessness is a big issue here, but until there is some action to help the least among us, it’s all talk. It’s time to act and time to take a stand that we as a community care about all of our neighbors.

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