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The Commons
Voices / Viewpoint

Homeless people, how can we help you?

As a community, we cannot continue failing these people — our community members, our neighbors and, for some of us, our friends and our family members

Justin Bibee wrote this letter to commemorate National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, which took place on Dec. 21. He is Brattleboro shelter coordinator for Youth Services and case manager for the social-service agency’s Youth in Transition Program.

Originally published in The Commons issue #445 (Wednesday, February 7, 2018).


I want to speak directly to the homeless people in our community, and through them, to all homeless people in our state, and across our nation.

I am sorry to say, try as we might, that we are letting you down.

Thousands of people like you — including women, children, and babies — are in danger, and we are letting them down.

They are fleeing violent conflicts.

They are going hungry or without the medicine they need.

They are displaced, living in places not meant for human habitation.

Many suffer discrimination.

And so often, they are victims of violence or exploitation.

All this is completely unacceptable.

As a community, we cannot continue failing these people — our community members, our neighbors and, for some of us, our friends and our family members.

Every person has a right to a safe, healthy, peaceful life and to develop to one’s full potential.

* * *

Every day, we need to ask ourselves: how can we work together to best support you — the people who are homeless in our community?

And how can we benefit from your vision and your suggestions?

How can we shape a more sustainable future that will give every homeless person, in every society, every opportunity not merely to survive, but to thrive?

Whenever I meet homeless people — including and especially those living in the poorest, most desperate situations, suffering terrible hardships — they never fail to inspire me.

As a community member, I pledge to you that I will listen, I will see you.

This is my responsibility, our responsibility.

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