Helping homeless

A recent two-part series by Day Staff Writer Claire Bessette well illustrated the complexities, challenges and emotional suffering associated with the problem of homelessness.

The series examined the federally subsidized program Homeless Women Deserve Treatment. Spearheaded by Bethsaida Community Inc., a nonprofit agency that for a quarter century has helped women in the region transition away from abusive relationships, the program coordinates the efforts of nine social service agencies to assist homeless women rebuild their lives.

The $350,000-per-year federal grant has the goal of offering help to 545 women over five years. If the program provides a model that increases the odds that more women can escape the despair of homelessness and become productive citizens, the investment will be well worth it.

Women with no means of support lose their children to the child-protection system, with a high cost to government and the likely chance yet another generation will be lost. Such women, and men, burden the police, court and prison systems, end up in emergency rooms without insurance to pay and remain a long-term drag on social services.

That's the practical reason to help. There is also a moral obligation.

Some will say these women are victims of their own bad choices - fathering children outside of committed relationships, turning to drugs and alcohol, dropping out of school, breaking laws. And that is true.

But the sexual and other forms of abuse they encountered as children damaged many of these women emotionally. For some abuse continues in adult relationships. Many medicate unresolved mental health problems with drugs and booze.

It's complex.

A bad economy and lack of affordable housing has thinned the safety net between daily struggle and outright homelessness. And those current realities make it more difficult to regain a firm footing once the net breaks.

At times the problems appear intractable, but Bethsaida and like-minded agencies refuse to surrender to cynicism and for that we applaud them.

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