BY BILL CLEARY
(cnbnews.net)Walking our dog recently along the railroad tracks in the Riverview Heights section of Gloucester City I came upon a young man asleep in the weeds rolled up in a sleeping bag. At first I thought he was dead. It appeared that he wasn’t breathing. Undecided on what to do I reached out to 911. As I was speaking with the dispatcher the young man set up and said he was okay.
Last week I saw the man in the same area. We spoke, he said his name was Tom, that he was 28-years-old.
Tom said he slept in the bushes along the tracks almost every night. “I was born in Camden but lived in Gloucester City most of my life. I used to work in packaging but now I can’t find a job. I’m thinking about moving to a bigger metropolis.”
I was taken aback when he said metropolis. It is not word you expect to hear from someone living on the street.
Can you imagine being in the prime of your life and having no roof over your head? Sleeping in the weeds in this heat. Mosquitoes biting you. Having to deal with all kinds of bugs. Sweaty and no place to take a bath.
I haven’t seen Tom for some time now. Perhaps he has moved on to that bigger city he spoke of, or maybe he was arrested for being a vagrant.
We wrote about this topic several times over the years. One of those stories was about a man who was in his late 40's sleeping in the woods behind the high school. His SSI was cut from $700 a month to $400 a month. He couldn't afford to pay the rent any longer and was evicted from his apartment. I knew his family. They told me he died last year of a heroin overdose. (see related stories below)
The Gloucester City Police have been receiving complaints about some of the vagrants living in our community. Recently they posted a comment on their FaceBook page explaining how they are dealing with these individuals.
“We have been receiving many calls about individuals who are homeless and causing issues such as public urination, drinking and other issues. We have around four homeless individuals that we have been dealing with on a consistent basis. We have been charging them for various nuisance crimes that are observed by the officers. These individuals have alcohol and substance a
There are many citizens who give them money because they feel sorry for them. We would prefer that you buy them a sandwich if they say that they want the money to get something to eat. They usually take the money and go and buy drugs and/or alcohol. As much as you don't want these individuals around there is not much we can do. Eventually they end up going to jail for failure to pay fines and that usually gets them a warm place to stay in the winter months. Some of them know this and do not care about the tickets that are issued because they know that during the harsh winter months they will have a roof over their head and are given three meals a day. It is one of the most difficult issues to deal with because we must balance the rights of the average citizen who has them hanging around their neighborhood verses the civil rights of the homeless. Civil rights will prevail each time because being homeless is not a crime. It is one of our most frustrating issues to deal with due to the amount of complaints that we receive.”
RELATED CNBNEWS TIPS AND SNIPPETS
related: ClearysNoteBook YouTube Channel