Winter is here, so are the homeless

Posted 10/24/19

The temperatures in Taos have dropped below freezing now in October.

Those of us lucky enough to have houses, warm clothes and a source of heat will be fine.

But people without homes or places to stay once again must seek shelter, a way to stay fed and warm - or a way to survive outside.

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Winter is here, so are the homeless

Posted

The temperatures in Taos have dropped below freezing now in October.

Those of us lucky enough to have houses, warm clothes and a source of heat will be fine.

But people without homes or places to stay once again must seek shelter, a way to stay fed and warm - or a way to survive outside.

Their sudden visibility can shock. When a man or woman is lying in a sleeping bag or a pile of clothes under a tree near a public building or across the street from this newspaper, as happened recently, homelessness is once again front and center. To ignore it, especially as winter draws near, is to say those who are homeless are not worth trying to protect and help.

Many groups and individuals in Taos are striving to assist those who find themselves homeless. Each serves a role, but it is a daunting task, with well over 100 homeless people in Taos alone, according to a recent survey by the Coalition to End Homelessness.

It is difficult in a small town where so many people are themselves literally only a paycheck, a medical bill or a broken-down vehicle away from ending up on the street.

Some people who are homeless work but may simply not be able to find a place they can afford to rent in Taos or can't save up enough to cover the first and last months' payment. Others may be suffering a trauma, domestic violence or a mental illness that makes it difficult for them to hold down a job. Women, with and without children, face particular risks and challenges when they don't have a place of their own.

Taos has a men's shelter, though it still isn't large enough for the current need and is in dire need of an upgrade.

DreamTree is working to help homeless teens find safe haven.

Those who have suffered a domestic violence situation can find shelter at Communities Against Violence.

The nonprofit Heart of Taos has worked diligently to open a women's shelter but that is still months away from opening.

Ensuring women and men are housed, of course, is just one challenge in keeping people off the street. Then they need counseling, perhaps life skills and jobs in order to stay in their houses.

The challenges are many. But Taos has a lot of groups working to help.

Find one and pitch in where you can. Every action makes a difference, even if it is only helping one homeless person at a time with a meal, a warm room for a night or a kind word.

Because there but for the grace of God, go you or I.

How about those kids?

All over our region, the next generation is stepping up to show they are capable of solving problems and honoring others.

At Taos Middle School, students recently cooked the food and served breakfast to dozens of first responders - law enforcement, EMS and firefighters - at the school. This is an annual event, a way for the students to meet with and honor people who hold essential jobs in our community. What a wonderful way to bring them all together. Principal Alfredo Cordova and his staff are to be complimented for creating this annual tradition. And kudos to the first responders for taking time out of their busy days to go hang out with the students. This week we published some of the photos from that event.

In Dixon, a group of students who spend part of most Saturdays during the school year working on science and engineering projects at the local library recently put those skills to the test helping a badly injured kitten. The kids studied the injury, measured the kitten, drew designs for a wheelchair on paper, refined a design on computer and printed the final design with a 3D printer. In the process, they put some math, physics, engineering, design and communications skills to practical use. A story this week and photos describe what happened.

The adults who spend time mentoring and teaching these young people are also to be commended. Their efforts will have ripple effects to the benefit of our society.

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