It's not enough for people to feel sorry for the homeless. Americans have to change their greedy ways so there are enough essentials for everyone, a group of Brigham Young University students was told Thursday.
Ruthanne Skinner, director of Provo's Food and Shelter Coalition, spoke in the Wilkinson Center about the plight of the homeless as part of a series of human rights lectures in a weeklong celebration of Martin Luther King Jr."I honestly believe a community has a responsibility to its homeless. There must be a change in society to eliminate the conditions that create homelessness," Skinner said. "If we were all more responsible with the things we've been given, there would be enough for everyone. Everyone is going to have to work together."
Some homeless have special problems in the Utah County area, because there is little tolerance for substance abuse, she said. Alcoholism is a serious problem for many homeless people. They may find themselves restricted from even emergency shelters if they are drinking.
"Alcoholism creates more problems for the homeless, and in this community, it is a ticket to sleep outside regardless of the weather," Skinner said. "This community treats alcoholism a little more rigidly. If someone's drinking at an SRO (sleeping room only shelter), they're out and there's nowhere for them to go."
Temporary shelters are not the ultimate answer for homeless people, but it is necessary to have a place for people to go until they get back on their feet. Most homeless people want very badly to reconstruct their lives. "There's a strong sense of `I want to make it,' " Skinner said.
Though the population of homeless in Utah County is lower than in larger cities, the problem seems to touch a variety of people. People aided recently by the Food and Shelter Coalition ranged in age from 8 months to 72 years. Some had advanced education, while others were mentally ill or addicted to drugs and alcohol.
"I think we have a responsibility to our fellow brothers and sisters to make sure that they are sheltered," Skinner said. "What is our government saying when we spend millions on one military aircraft and yet tolerate millions of homeless."