Two words struck a chord while reading the Indy Star article on the Davidson Street homeless camp closing this Monday: family and community.
I first visited the Davidson Street camp a couple of months ago and was immediately struck by the number of refugees living there—from Sierra Leone, from Liberia, from Haiti, from other war torn countries. Mostly young men, all without families, several escaped homes that had been ravaged by civil wars, genocide, and natural disasters.
These young men had enjoyed some of the opportunities provided to them by the U.S., not the least of these being the opportunity to obtain a college education. A couple of the young men shared with me that they had completed one to three years of higher ed until tragic bits of their stories caught up to them in the form of mental illness. PTSD and Depression are common among this group, as well as the general population living under the bridge and in our communities as homeless neighbors.
A new friend, Leroy, a refugee from Liberia, shared that he had secured a job, an apartment-- stability. However, due to a glitch in the system, he ended up losing benefits that he needed to make rent; therefore, he lost his housing and found himself living under the bridge. It was evident during my interactions with Leroy and the others that the bridge had become their community. The “Lost Boys”, as we call them, had found each other under the bridge and created their own family.
As Mentor Match Manager at Trusted Mentors, I work primarily with the formerly homeless population, matching these men and women with volunteer mentors. Mentors help bridge the gap from life on the streets to a more stable and hopefully fuller life. What the city, and many others, fail to recognize is that, regardless of the morality of the bridge closing, a community, multiple “families” were displaced, were separated, were torn apart on Monday. To make the transition from homelessness to stability will require the time, energy and efforts of all of us, of the broader community, to bridge the gap.
Mentor trainings held monthly. Call 317-985-5041 or email us at email@example.com for more info or to RSVP for training.