Seek solutions to homelessness


Michael Maresh's headline article in the Jan. 3 edition of the Journal did state an obvious truth: "Homeless population in Cortez can have negative impacts." Indeed. Of course, the same is true anywhere else. There are homeless citizens everywhere in this country.

A "homeless population" is not unique to the city of Cortez. What I think was lacking, even with the sidebar about our local homeless shelter, was any suggestion about what we can do about this problem.

Sheriff Dennis Spruell was quoted as saying, "A lot of those people are not homeless. They choose not to go home." True enough in a limited way.

Robert Frost said in The Death of the Hired Man, "Home is the place, where when you have to go there, they have to take you in." It ain't necessarily so. That place and those people may be gone. That home may have been so horribly dysfunctional that taking your chances of dying from exposure in the beautiful parks of Cortez is a reasonable alternative.

You and I know there are lots of reasons to be homeless: Drug and alcohol problems. Mental and physical illness. Lost a job, can't get a new one. Run-in with the law. Got pregnant. Intolerable family situation. Combinations of these things and others.

My wife and I first came to the Four Corners area in 2005 when I took a job at the hospital in Shiprock. We sold our place in Montana and bought a home in Cortez in 2008. We picked Cortez for what I think are probably the usual reasons: great parks, wonderful rec center, mountains and desert, good places to eat. We moved here permanently when I retired from the Indian Health Service last August.

Sometime in 2010, a patient of mine in Shiprock told me how her brother had died in one of the parks in Cortez. We began to support the Bridge Emergency Shelter with donations and as occasional volunteers. Last month I was asked to serve on the shelter's board of directors.

Shoplifting by a homeless person is not a reason to turn our backs on people in need. I hope that Cortez and Montezuma County will continue to support the Bridge Emergency Shelter. I hope that our rec center, library and Welcome Center will continue to provide temporary relief from the cold and the wind.

As a new and very inexperienced member of the shelter board of directors, I invite you to become involved. Visit with the shelter's staff and guests. Donate. Volunteer.

James. S. Rogers