Let’s have an open conversation

Barbara Biggs - South Shore, Kentucky

Compassion is subjective and is not in alignment with the needs of the community as a whole.

These were some of the closing words of the letter published on June 27 by Gregory W. Edwards who is aligned with some sort of organization called ‘Putting Americans First in America’. Mr. Edwards, do you understand what “compassion” means? Try sympathy, kindness, mercy, humanity. That, I would argue, is exactly what this community needs at this point in time.

We are living in a very strange era indeed, one where people are calling for fellow humans to lay dying on the streets rather than give them an injection of Narcan. We are living in an era where the most powerful man on earth has bragged about his past sexual assaults and encouraged violence towards his opponents. This small town, with all of its problems, has a chance to begin to see real change. I never thought it would happen, but I am starting to believe in the good that this town can achieve. We are beginning to see real growth in new businesses, a huge industrial complex being built just across the river (with talks of another, as well), blighted homes being torn down for green space, a local landmark with rich history being refurbished for the good of the community (McKinley Pool), a resurgence in interest in Spartan Municipal Stadium, multiple river sweeps and neighborhood clean ups, Final Fridays and Street Art Saturdays, three farmer’s markets, a local vet and his companies encouraging people to get in control of their bodies and health…

I could go on. Yes, we have a homeless problem. Yes, people don’t like to look at things that are ugly or hard to explain to their children. However, as citizens of Portsmouth, we have the responsibility, born out of compassion, to try to help these people. Many, many homeless people (25 percent according to The National Coalition for the Homeless) have severe mental illness. And it also easy to forget that many are veterans, many are LGBTQ teens that have been thrown out their family’s home, many are just that one medical bill away from losing everything. It can happen to anyone. You talk of “resources we currently have in place” to help, but you don’t say what they are. I would like to know what you are referring to. Are you referring to the shelter? Churches? Job and Family Services? Metropolitan Housing?

We need a concerted effort by the community and by leadership, to find ways to help people who find themselves living in a shanty town by the river. You don’t know their stories. I don’t know their stories. But someone should. We all should. Remember that they are human and deserve dignity, and also remember, as your organization says in its name, first and foremost they are Americans (just not the kind of Americans you’d prefer, I suppose).

There has to be a better answer. A dialog must begin and it should be one that doesn’t involve any more shame or humiliation. I don’t know what the answer is, but I would be willing to be part of that conversation, and I know many other people that would likely step up to take part, as well.

Barbara Biggs

South Shore, Kentucky