Commentary: Homelessness in Sussex becoming chronic problem

By Jim Martin

How do I explain to Sussex County Council something that they have never experienced? How do I explain experiences of the working homeless to people who have never experienced homelessness for themselves?

Here is my attempt at explaining something that council members have never experienced. Here goes …

Sussex County has seen a boom in luxury housing construction that has left young people, seniors and regular working people with nowhere to go to the bathroom, nowhere to sleep at night, and nowhere to wash up.

Because we now have no housing units in Sussex County for the working poor and no more Section 8 units available, more and more young people, senior citizens and regular working people are living in their cars or pitching tents in the woods.

Jim Martin

The personal hygiene situation is getting more and more horrendous because they relieve themselves when and where they must. Because of this, it is being reported that the medieval infectious diseases are resurging among the homeless and typhus and hepatitis germs can easily jump beyond the homeless population to our sheltered citizens.

As a council you should vote Yes on a new ordinance that would prohibit local discrimination of poor, low-income families, vote Yes on a new ordinance that would encourage fast track approvals of new mobile home parks, vote Yes on new ordinances that would require towns and cities in the county to install easy to find public bathrooms that are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week and vote Yes on a local ordinance creating safe parking areas with public bathrooms for car dwellers so they can get some stress free sleep while maintaining their day jobs.

In closing, I have a few questions for Sussex County Council to think about. Are low-income residents being pushed out of Sussex County because of discrimination?

How do you enforce Sussex County’s fair and affordable housing laws if you have no Sussex County fair and affordable housing laws in place locally to enforce?

What will be your specific initiatives as our governing body to solve our current housing crisis and looming health crisis?

I estimate that 45,000 people in Sussex County will become homeless in the coming years unless we take action now. In order for you to truly understand homelessness, can you experience homelessness for one week or seven days in Sussex County and learn firsthand what many of our citizens are experiencing?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim Martin is an advocate for the homeless and director of The Shepherd’s Office in Georgetown, a faith-based resources group that provides fellowship and assists people to overcome social, emotional, physical, mental and spiritual barriers with a hand up.

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