I like to work out in the community as much as possible. It gives me a chance to see my fellow volunteers and appreciate the community in which I live.
I believe that the current administration has done a lot for the City of South Bend. The downtown area has a new feel to it. It’s lively and people are constantly walking around to meetings, the coffee shops or the various downtown restaurants. South Bend is a community of just over 100,000 residents, but if you hang out enough downtown, you are sure to see a few familiar faces.
Lately, I haven’t enjoyed working downtown at all. I’ve noticed a real increase in the number of mentally ill people and homeless. While they know their limits as far as going into establishments and panhandling, it doesn’t stop them at businesses with outdoor seating.
I’m sure I will receive mixed feedback on this blog. I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about the whole issue. Back when I was in 7th grade I remember seeing homeless people in Chicago and I would give them money and feel bad for them and the fact that they didn’t have money, a home or food to eat.
I guess somewhere during the time I was 13 and now, I’ve lost some compassion. Because now, I’m just highly annoyed. Over the past few days, I’ve been sitting outside a downtown coffee shop, drinking the beverage I paid for, and have not been able to be at peace while working.
Instead, I’ve had people come up and beg for money. I’ve had a homeless person practically spit in my face as he talked so incoherently I couldn’t understand a word he said. I watched other patrons get up and leave because they were uncomfortable as he approached them.
Today, one guy would not leave me alone to work so I got up and left. I walked about a block down to work from another establishment, which happened to be hindered by the same problem, different people. Again, I was not the only one who was uncomfortable.
Public parks and outdoor spaces, which have been developed largely for those who live and work in South Bend, seem to be unsafe.
About a month ago, the Lime Bikes made a debut in the Bend, as well. What a cool idea for those in the city to be able to use the bikes for a minimal fee. They lined certain areas downtown, in parks and along the Riverwalk. How cool. Oh wait, some people are playing by the rules while other people seem to find bikes that people forgot to lock or they’ve made their own adjustments to them and are riding along for free.
There is a well-known mentally ill homeless man on the West side of South Bend and I saw him riding down the street on a Lime Bike. I have to admit the look on his face was priceless. It was pure joy, like watching a young child ride a bike for the first time. But it’s not how the bikes are intended to be used.
Maybe I need more education on the subject. I know that we have the Homeless Center in South Bend and I have been a supporter of the organization in the past. I commend them for feeding those who live there and trying to help them get on their feet. But during the day, they need to leave the shelter and look for jobs. Is downtown loitering where they end up?
I also have questions about the tent city that popped up under the bridge last year. Now, I may have my facts wrong on this because I caught a bit here and there on the news, but maybe didn’t get the whole story. The people in the tents were there and not in the Homeless Shelter because they had addiction issues and were not sober enough to be at the shelter. Correct?
So I think Mayor Pete and his administration made arrangements for these people to live in alternative housing. I have an issue with this. People make choices every day. They work or they don’t work. They pay bills or they don’t pay bills. If they are choosing to drink or do drugs, which inhibits them from staying at the Homeless Shelter, why are we allowing them to live in alternative housing?
I obviously don’t have all the facts and I don’t have all the solutions either. All I know, is that South Bend as a whole is trying to be a fun, safe place to live. But some things need to be done to make out community feel safer. Does anyone else share my feelings? Or can anyone shed light on any of the topics listed above? I feel like there needs to be a better balance...