To the editor: Dear Groundworks Collaborative, et al,
I wish to write a letter of thanks, but to do so properly, I need to provide a bit of a back story first, if you’ll bear with me.
I am homeless and am presently a beneficiary of your services at the Quality Inn in Brattleboro. In addition to being currently homeless, I am essentially bed-ridden; I am functionally deaf; one of my vocal cords being severed, it’s difficult for me to speak; six months ago I suffered a major stroke … I could go on, but I’m a poster boy of the homeless, eh?
That having been said, I am ridiculously well-educated. I am not a drug addict nor am I an alcoholic. I try to be a kind man who always pays it forward. But regardless of my intentions or intelligence, I am homeless. This is where you people enter the story.
Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve been homeless. I’ve run the gamut from sleeping under bridges (literally), to couch surfing, to catching naps in libraries, to crashing on army mats in big city shelters.
What I’m trying to illustrate is that I understand what it is to be homeless. Furthermore, I truly know these homeless people. I’ve grown to learn, however, that the concept that middle America has of the homeless is grossly inaccurate.
Yes, without a doubt, there is a considerable drug problem within the ranks of the homeless. Much worse, however, than addiction or alcoholism, is pervasive and chronic mental disabilities. But the right-wing urban myth of the “welfare mom” who drives a Cadillac, is as fallacious as it is offensive.
Most of the homeless (and I include myself), aren’t looking for a perpetual hand-out. We are praying and hoping for just a tiny respite. Here is how Groundworks fits into this narrative:
I cannot fully express what a remarkable job y’all have been doing during this COVID crisis. I, myself, am a disabled old man, but I am far from the worst situation. I cannot imagine what it’s like to be a young woman who is homeless, or a destitute mother of infants, or someone who lacks the ability/understanding to navigate complex government agencies.
My past experience with homeless agencies is that they’ve been mostly indifferent to the plight of their clients. At times, there has been outright abuse towards these lost souls. Yet Groundworks has been different.
Since my arrival about a month ago, I’ve been assigned a case manager who has been diligently trying to procure me long-term housing. Once a day someone arrives at my door to take my temperature. Because of my inability to walk, you deliver my mail, meals, and milk. Earlier this morning, I finally got vaccinated.
But what is truly impressive, is that you do so politely and with genuine kindness!
I’d like to call special attention to Cora Cobane, my case worker. But in addition to Cora, each and every one of your staff deserve plaudits. You suffer from both insufficient funding and a societal underappreciation of the work you’re doing.
I am, therefore, sending a copy of this letter to certain government agencies, and a couple local media. I don’t expect much of response from them (if any), but maybe - just maybe - this letter shall increase the awareness of what a remarkable job you’re doing.
In closing, let me thank you, again, for treating all of us with compassion and humanity. If I ever win the lottery, you’re the first charity I’m giving money to!
Until we speak again, I remain,
Most Sincerely Yours,
Scott A. Chiasson-Faulkner
Brattleboro, May 5