Thursday, June 28, 2007

Soup kitchen troubles

Gah! I just read an article from today's Providence Journal (here) that says the soup kitchen where I volunteer in Pawtucket will be closing. It turns out two woman in the neighborhood complained that they were harassed by men who appeared to have come from the soup kitchen so the city's zoning board denied issuing a new permit to allow the kitchen's continued operation.

Sheesh! Talk about throwing out the baby with the bath-water. First of all, the women weren't even sure the men had come from the soup kitchen, yet this one complaint was enough for the zoning board to deny the permit. Secondly, even if the men had come from the soup kitchen, it seems like a very strange policy to punish all the people being serviced by the kitchen because a couple of the patrons have behavior problems. I guess people want to help the homeless and poor in theory, but they just don't want to have to actually see them in their neighborhood. Yes, some of the people being helped are going to have behavioral problems and/or hygiene problems, but they still need our help. What people have to realize is helping the severely disadvantage in a city is not pretty work, but it's important work. All people deserve help - even ones you might not like.

What I find really odd is the soup kitchen is located downtown in a somewhat industrial neighboorhood, yet people still complained. Of all the possible locations, I would think this location would be the least intrusive. What do people want? A special walled community for the poor and homeless? Then we wouldn't have to see them and we could just live our happy lives not having to confront some of the ugly realities of life. We wouldn't even have to remember the homeless exist.