We must find balance between business needs and compassion

BRATTLEBORO — I sat down with Turquoise Grille owners Declan O'Donnell and Hale Kiziltan; we talked about the issue, sharing feelings on both sides.

I have been homeless and I have fought addiction, so for me the signs triggered feelings that I hadn't had in many years.

After talking this through and learning about one another's feelings, we came to an understanding about several things.

I truly believe that there was no ill-will meant toward those dealing with being addicted and homeless. Unknown to many, these folks have given warmth and hot coffee on cold days; they have given food and gotten to know several of those in need. They have hired several who were fighting addiction, when others would not.

The other part of this that I didn't know, was that there are a couple of the less fortunate who have been rude and vulgar. Having been in their situation, when someone gives you food, you say thank you. And being in a bad situation isn't a permission slip to to be rude.

I will be honest. Most people in this situation are extremely polite and grateful when given something; not all.

If you have a business of any kind, you have the right to try to succeed. I believe our local social services and law enforcement needs to make this issue more of a priority.

I choose to turn this into something positive. As far as not placating tourists, my answer is two-fold. First: Many of the customers unhappy about the homeless/addicted are locals who aren't willing to say out loud that they don't like pan-handling. Secondly: Without tourism, Vermont as a state will lose a lot.

As a town, Brattleboro relies on those tourist dollars for income, which pays taxes and town employees. Without tourists, there are so many who would be out of work. Without tourists, the town would be in very bad shape, as they provide income for hotel and restaurant owners. The local farmers' markets, crafters, and the arts could be hurt without tourism.

We need to find a balance of care and respect for those less fortunate, while understanding that business owners have the right to have their business.

In closing, I want to thank Julie Tamler of the Inclusion Center, and my friend Laura Chapman for helping me to be a part of mending fences and trying to make our community better for all who are here.

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