I see them walking the streets of our town.
You do, too.
They are thin, dressed in clothes that don’t fit and they are usually just walking slowly up and down our streets.
They don’t have any place to go. They don’t need a watch because they have no appointments or set time to be anywhere. They are rarely in groups of two or more.
They are Clarksdale’s homeless.
They need your help today.
I was surprised to find out Clarksdale did not have a homeless shelter when I moved here a little more than a year ago.
I quickly found out Clarksdale had a lot of homeless people.
I was met by the infamous “Dollar Bill” who didn’t match his name, because he blatantly asked for five dollars when he caught me on Second Street my first week here. I gave him money that first time and he recognized me – and always begged from me – from then on.
In the summer of 2019 we also had a tall, thin lady in green camouflage who would come in the Press Register office. She would sit in our chair for a minute. “It’s just so hot,” she would say. She lived under the Second Street Bridge.
I saw her around town often that summer. My son and I even bought her a meal one night when we saw her on the parking lot at McDonalds. It worried Daniel for several days that this woman didn’t have a home and didn’t have much to eat. I don’t see her now, but Daniel and I still wonder sometimes if she is Ok.
Then there was my most recent contact.
The Saturday of Labor Day weekend a homeless man walked past my window at work and then I heard a crash.
He had turned over the metal newspaper stand out front of our office. He broke the stand, which costs $400. I ran outside and told him to stop.
He gave me the one-finger-salute and kept on walking. I called the cops.
Police nabbed him in the 200 Block of Third Street.
I watched as they let him go. I was told by the officer he was homeless, off his meds and the Jail wouldn’t take minor offenders as they were trying to keep COVID-19 out of the prisoner population.
“That doesn’t seem like justice to me,” I said, as he walked away. “As long as he was just homeless, I’m willing to help. When he becomes destructive, breaks the law and vandalizes property, he needs to be stopped.”
Where and How
Clarksdale needs a homeless shelter. Our homeless need a place that can help them leave the street.
But the two questions we need to answer are, where will it go and how will it be run?
There are those who currently have plans to put a homeless shelter on South Yazoo Street.
That neighborhood has already voiced concerns over panhandlers. (Clarksdale does have an ordinance against begging.) They are concerned with the mental problems that could come to their neighborhood and addiction and social problems, too. (Most homeless have issues that put them on the street.)
I personally believe there are better locations in Clarksdale, but property has already been bought and this process has been going on for two years.
The second question is the bigger one.
The city has tentatively agreed to give $10,000 to The Change Place, to run a homeless shelter. If that is all the capital they have, it’s not enough to run a homeless shelter for very long.
I have covered homeless issues for more than 25 years. The people who run it are the key.
They have to have a heart of gold and a passion for helping the people they serve. They also have to have a “heavy” or someone who can enforce the rules required for staying in a homeless shelter.
You see, a homeless shelter is not a final destination where you just put your homeless. It’s a starting place to truly help human beings break the shackles that put them on our streets.
I want to point to the Care Station that feeds virtually all of the homeless in our community, as an example of what Clarksdale can do to solve a sinister social problem.
I hope our churches will check into this issue. I hope the good people and financially gifted will check into supporting this cause. I believe there are solutions.
Yes, Clarksdale has a homeless problem and I believe in my heart Clarksdale can solve it.
Floyd Ingram is Editor of your Clarksdale Press Register. He has always been blessed with a home and will be glad to work with others to make it happen in Clarksdale. Roll up you sleeves and call him at 662-627-2201.