The following is a guest editorial written for The Republic newspaper in Columbus, Indiana in support of the newspapers position on homelessness and drug abuse. We invite readers from the Columbus area to join us in a conversation about how to begin addressing and solving the drug problem. Please leave your comments and opinions below.
to: the editor
from: brandon andress, the [living] room
I appreciate the position that The Republic has taken on poverty and addiction in Columbus. You are correct when you say that the causes, effects, and solutions to poverty and addiction are community issues. I would also take it a step further than community issue, and say that it is our community’s responsibility. As one who has been blinded and sheltered in the past, from the issues of poverty, and especially addiction, in Columbus, I have come to a very dark realization over the last year…Columbus, specifically downtown, has a staggering drug problem that is destroying lives, putting others in danger, and neglecting innocent children.
Our church, the [living] room, moved into an upstairs building at the corner of 14th and Sycamore in November. We had numerous individuals warn us about moving into such a “rough” location. We believed that this was precisely the spot that we needed to be located, in order to begin reaching out to the hurt, lost, homeless, oppressed, and addicted in the downtown area. Over the last six months, we have become convinced that this was the right decision, but it has been extremely difficult at times.
Through our partnership with the selfless staff at Horizon House homeless shelter, we have been introduced to the other, less advertised, reality of Columbus- people sleeping in abandoned buildings, living in cars, and hanging out under bridges in town, just to name a few locations. We have witnessed the desperate need of these individuals and families, but also discovered the underlying cause in nearly every instance…drug usage and addiction. We have learned that it is quite unrealistic to expect that addicted individuals will secure a job, maintain a consistent place to live, stay out of jail, break free from social assistance, or have children that are well-adjusted and free from issues at school or with the law, unless there are realistic options for rehabilitation, as well as community awareness and support.
The issues of homelessness and drug addiction in Columbus are exacerbated by our collective ignorance of the problems and issues, the limited options for addressing the root causes, and very few people willing (or that even care) to discuss a strategy for solving the problems. There are many in the Social Services field that are doing all that they can with the time and limited resources that they have, and they should be applauded for their efforts. However, I would urge the community, specifically churches, to be on the front-end of the dialogue of how to break the cycles of dependency and addiction in Columbus. As followers of Jesus, we cannot solely rely on governmental programs to solve these issues. If ever there was a group of people that should be looking to the interest of the poor, oppressed, or the least in this world…it is the Church, as we are called to humble ourselves, serve, care for, and love. It cannot be the fragmented church…it has to be the Church.
Columbus can be a bright and shining community, where homelessness, dependency and addiction are the problems of the past, but it will take education, dialogue, resources, and committed individuals bringing the entire community together to break the vicious cycle. My prayer is that we, together, can begin laying that groundwork today.