Dear Editor: To Frederick R. Bedell Jr. (Readers’ Forum, “Homelessness,” Sept. 9), I want to offer my apologies to you for your experience as a veteran being homeless after being released from the U.S. Navy and having served during the Vietnam era. There is something seriously wrong with us as a country when men come home from serving their country and find themselves homeless for even one day.
I was going to write to a priest in my parish who spoke about helping the homeless in his homily, but decided to write this letter after reading about Bedell’s experience.
A few years ago, I was walking on 37th Ave. in my neighborhood and I saw a man in a wheelchair (I may have seen him prior but I don’t remember). Anyway, this day was brutally cold and I could not pass him by. I went over and asked him if I could get him a cup of coffee etc. and he said “Yes.” After that I would see him frequently and would get him something to eat as did others as well. Eventually we started to talk and he was a Vietnam veteran. He told me some things about his background and time in Vietnam. In addition to being wheelchair bound, he had what appeared to be serious arthritis in his hands. When I didn’t see him for awhile, I asked another neighbor who knew him and was told that he had died. I never found out the whole story of his situation or why many of his days were spent sitting on the street in a wheelchair no matter what the weather was like.
I hope Mr. Bedell’s letter is a “wake-up” call for us so that we respond to the needs of the homeless in a more positive way. I know it is for me.
I’m writing this because as a result of that experience, I realized you really never know what problems another person has and certainly homeless people have very serious problems. I don’t know the answer to the overall problem but I do know it’s not “chasing them away” as one public figure has advocated.
Now as a result of that experience, I try to help a homeless person in some way. Homelessness is not a crime. “There but for the grace of God…”
RITA M. MURPHY