Thursday, June 28, 2007

What is a community to do?

Well it is a typical Thursday for us. Not a lot of business and it is the end of the month so that means not busy at all for the better part of the day. The hard part about that is that it is the end of the week and usually my energy is at a low ebb.So here I am sitting in my little coffeehouse when along comes a visitor. He is a somewhat unwelcome visitor even though he does buy something every time he comes in. Still, he is a local person with a mental illness that may or may not have been caused (and may or may not still be exacerbated by) his use of drugs. This is not a doting community for him especially since he is fond of burning his bridges so to speak. Frequently he challenges court orders to avoid members of the community and often seems to instigate trouble. So what is a community to do with a character like him?

It is all to easy to say well he needs to move but each community will likely respond very similarly as ours has to his presence. He has a long history here. As for me... He just frightened me. He wasn't threatening or abusive just higher than a kite and talking gibberish... disjointed sentences, calling all sorts of movie stars and Jesus his brother or kin.. you name it.. he was talking it.. and NONE of it made sense at all. What was worse is it went on for about an hour!! Finally a customer came in and my unwelcome guest left. Not before departing a few well chosen words on the customer. Of course... like all the other things said it made no sense at all!! If the customer would not have been a local I may have lost him as a customer.

So the question begs.. what do we do with unwanted characters? He has a history so the rumors fly of being violent and certainly the police spend an inordinate time with him but nothing seems to get done for him or with him. He wanders the streets, goes off his meds, and creates trouble.He has antagonized the entire neighborhood enough that they are on the phone to the police constantly and yet... where does he belong? How can an entire community (if it decides to address this situation) help this one man? Our minister's wife asked the chamber "how do we integrate these people into our community so we foster them instead of continue to allow them to self destruct?" We had no answers but we are searching for them....

I am just a shopkeeper.. I don't have any golden answers. Yet here I sat with this guy who needed help and I was frightened! The thing that bothers me most is that my reaction to this guy was the same as everyone Else's. I HATE that! I don't want to exile him.. I want to find a way for us to coexist peacefully, and amicably. I do not want to be frightened! That is not my way! On the other hand I cant have him driving my customers away either. I am barely making it as it is...

So here I am with this decision that may not even need to be made. I will find a way to help with the chamber's help and support and we will find a way to create a community that does not judge or ostracize but cares for their own. This is a goal. While I am a long way from it... it is a goal for us to pursue.

Homelessness on Whidbey Island

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