January 29, 2014 9:56:30 AM
There are some things we can all agree on and one of them is the weather over the past few days: It's been cold, very cold by Mississippi standards.
The cold weather has been a dominant topic of our casual conversations all week.
So we ask: Did you have a warm, dry, safe place to sleep this week when the overnight lows dipped into the teens and the wind chill made even those frigid temperatures feel much colder?
Did you have warm clothes to wear as you made your way through your daily routine? Did you have warm meals to nourish you? Did your pets have adequate shelter to protect them from the elements?
Fortunately, most of us will have been able to answer all those questions with a "yes."
Here is a different question: During the course of your day, as you commiserated with co-workers, friends and family about how miserably cold it has been, did you stop to consider that there are those among us whose answer to many of those questions was "no."
In June, The Dispatch reported Columbus Municipal School District estimates of 150 homeless school children. State figures estimate the number of homeless students in the state at 12,500. Those figures, sobering as they are, fall far short of painting an accurate picture of homelessness in the state. Because students can be tracked, there is a way to estimate their numbers. It is not so for adults, many who live "off the grid" and cannot be accurately counted. It is likely the number of students who are homeless represents only a fraction of all those who have no consistent source of shelter.
That is a sad situation in warm June. It is tragic in bitterly cold January.
The Golden Triangle has no homeless shelters. The closest is in Tupelo and the shelter there is insufficient to accommodate its own number of homeless people. There are homeless shelters in Tuscaloosa, Meridian and Jackson, but for the unknown number of homeless people in the Golden Triangle, those aren't viable options.
So they take refuge where they can. The Columbus Community Resource Center, operated through the United Way, helps as much as they can, providing money for a hotel room. But those services are limited.
Likewise, food pantries and soup kitchen are overwhelmed by demand when the weather conditions are at their worst.
Abandoned and rescued pets suffer, too. The Humane Society is filled to capacity and the need for donations of money, food and supplies often exceeds supply.
The cold weather has been little more than an inconvenience for most of us, really little more than a nuisance.
For the homeless, it is a far more serious situation.
So, really, only one question remains unanswered:
What do you intend to do about it?
The easiest place to start is with your own church or civic organization. You can also contact the United Way of Lowndes County at (662) 328-0943, The Salvation Army at (662)-327-5137 in Columbus, (662) 324-3304 in Starkville or (662) 494-9119 in West Point, or the Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society at (662) 327-3107.