Nearly 100 people who participated in last weekend’s annual March Against Hunger staged a visible presence in the city, as they walked and ran to support St. Vincent de Paul Society programs. The hungry and homeless citizens who benefit from the group’s services can be more difficult to pinpoint.
Those include nearly 30 homeless residents who receive lunches from St. Vincent de Paul Society on a regular basis, said Claudia Smith, who coordinates the group’s Trust in Jesus Cusine ministry to the homeless.
The stories of these people vary — some have temporarily fallen on hard times, others struggle with substance abuse, some suffer from mental illness.
Most have strong reasons for wanting to stay in town, despite the lack of social services available here, compared with larger communities. Many have grown up in Patterson or have relatives in town. Often, they brave cold nights in open spaces, carefully hidden out of the public’s eye to avoid being driven away.
Readers can expect to learn more about these residents’ struggles on these pages in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, let us start contemplating solutions, inasmuch as they are possible.
It is commendable that St. Vincent de Paul Society has taken the initiative to support the local population, but Patterson’s homeless issue is ultimately a community one, and it demands broader attention.
Patterson High School special education students already help with providing lunches, which is a great start. It also would be great to see some volunteer work from retirees, churches and service clubs.
Ultimately, it would be great to see a temporary shelter and some transitional programs available to help residents who can’t get employment because they are too busy trying to survive.
In light of the recent shutdown of the homeless shelter in nearby Turlock, it appears such projects could face hefty opposition. Yet solutions must be found if Patterson wants to be known as a quality community. And shipping residents off to other cities is not the answer.
May the March Against Hunger serve as a reminder of fellow citizens in need, and may we strive further as a community to keep their oft-hidden struggles in our mind’s eye.