bloggin' all things brownsville

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Brownsville's Homeless

I received a very moving e-mail in response to a Brownsville Herald article that appeared in today's paper. The article is about a homeless man who sought shelter in a dumpter and got his legs crushed by a garbage truck.

I wanted to share the e-mail with you. Its sender, Joshua Caldwell, is a Brownsville native who is now attending St. Mary's School of Law in San Antonio.




Sometimes it's best to put the undeveloped and idealistic minds of children and teenagers to work, in order find what's most important to our common humanity.

In 2007, the Center for Civic Engagement hosted a KidsVoting forum with the City of Brownsville mayoral candidates. Among the topics discussed were: education, public safety, and surprisingly, the homeless population. The responses to the third issue varied.

Our current mayor suggested at the forum that perhaps turning the old Valley Regional Medical Center into a homeless shelter was a solution. Another turned to the numerous nonprofits, funded by the city, that provide services to the homeless. Another candidate, bluntly said what I think many believe: the homeless "want" to be on the streets. But of all the responses, our current mayor had the most practical, and I hope he didn't forget it, or mind a suggested change of location.

The current homeless shelter -- mentioned in today's Herald -- is located by the airport. Business travelers have a tough enough time catching rides to make their flights, so how will our street homeless -- who barely have shoes to stand in -- make it to the Ozanam Center in the eastern stretches of our city? (or the old VRMC out on Ted Hunt Boulevard?)

Brownsville's downtown-area must have more short-term and long-term shelters to prevent horrific and troublesome accidents like the one reported today from repeating. Can you imagine how desperate, isolated, and vulnerable one must feel to make a decision to sleep in a dumpster full of trash and used clothes to stay warm, only to wake up the next morning to his leg bones being crushed by a heavy steel trash compactor, and his cries for help go unheard?

Rather than show a little compassion, our Brownsville Police Department showed little remorse. "Dumpsters are not shelters," the BPD spokesman was quoted in the daily. "It's obvious that they are not a safe place to get in to, much less sleep in. There are shelters in the city, but Jimenez chose not to use them." Where is our social-justice community to cry foul for this local-government viewpoint?

We know sleeping in dumpsters are not safe, but why aren't we asking "why" he didn't make it to a shelter? Are we making an assumption that he "wanted" to sleep there?

Joshua Caldwell


Blogger Kurgan said...

The other day, I had read how the GOP was up in arms concerning the Ohio courts decision to allow the homeless to use park bench locations as addresses on voter registration cards.

There are two clear points on this.

First, a little objectivity will allow one to move past the disdain and not judge why they are homeless. They have no home; are we to deny them a voice as well?

Secondly, written into the fabric of our democracy is allowing every person te right to vote. It has not always been smooth, or clean or even without violence, but we are pretty much there. One of the core points was that all people, NOT JUST LANDOWNERS, are given the right to vote. At the time, the concept of landowners meant the wealthy. Today, if you own a home, compared to a homeless person, you are wealthy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great response. Sometimes we just don't look at the whole picture. Wish our city leaders thought like Josh.

Friday, October 31, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Homeless shelters are generally supported by government grants. The unfortunate truth is that for a city the size of Brownsville to have two homeless shelters is probably not sustainable, because the current funding for homeless shelters would be divided between two separate organizations and neither of them would stand much chance of survival. I agree that it would be helpful to have beds downtown for those who refuse transportation to Ozanam Center, but funding will be a huge barrier to that solution. Another reason that the homeless sometimes refuse to be transported to Ozanam is that drug or alcohol use are not permitted at that shelter. Self-admitted alcoholics like Mr. Jimenez may not be good candidates for such a shelter. While Mr. Jimenez probably didn't really want to sleep in the dumpster, it's likely that he didn't want to be subjected to the rules in force for the guests at Ozanam Center.

Friday, October 31, 2008  
Anonymous pat ahumada said...


I do remember my suggestion to convert the old Valley Regional Hospital into a homeless shelter, but it is my understanding that this is no longer an option, as it is being used as a mental health facility.

I have not forgotten about the homeless. I can imagine only how it must feel to be wondering the streets without food, shelter, or a caring person to interact with and help out.

The problem is that the city is going thru very hard times. The Commission refused to recoup the .03 cents tax rate cut from a year ago to help offset the present fiscal situation the city finds itself in. Therefore, money is in short supply when 65 percent of our General Fund goes to public safety, leaving 35 percent for city administration and no capital improvements.

We have dipped into reserves the past two years to balance the budget and if things keep going the way they are, the city is going to be facing very tough decisions and will be forced to raise the tax rate by more than the .03 cents I proposed to help stop the hemoraging. Then, citzens are going to get upset for letting things get this serious.

Kindest regards,
Pat Ahumada

Monday, November 03, 2008  
Anonymous pat ahumada said...

There is no reason why the city cannot join faith base organizations to operate a shelter. The city could provide the facility and the faith base organizations maintain it.

Pat Ahumada

Monday, November 03, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mayor: I'm glad you didn't forget about the homeless. It is my hope that Mr. Jimenez's story -- as well as the countless ones untold -- will cause the city commission to act, or at the very least, bring the issue into the public spotlight.

Many thanks,
Josh Caldwell

Monday, November 03, 2008  

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