EDITORIAL: Warming centers a step in the right direction

Published 8:49 am Friday, February 1, 2019

This week, southwest Michigan experienced record-breaking temperatures and wind chills that closed schools, businesses and government offices. For some, the cold simply served as an opportunity to stay indoors and cuddle up with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa. However, for our communities’ most vulnerable, the cold was a life or death situation.

Because of this, warming centers opened up across the region this week to help provide for those individuals. In Niles, Michiana Heating and Air Conditioning, UltraCamp and the Niles Salvation Army served as warming stations to help keep residents without adequate access to heat warm throughout the cold snap. In Dowagiac, city leaders opened the historic train depot as a small shelter for those known to sleep on the streets.

The community lauded the move to open these centers, and Michiana Heating and Air Conditioning even made national news. Indeed, the warming centers were an asset to our communities and likely saved lives.

However, once the cold lifts this weekend and the warming centers close, there will still be those who need help and a place to go.

Though numbers of homeless individuals in our communities are fewer than in other areas of the nation, our homeless are still three times as likely to die prematurely than the general population, according to National Health Care for the Homeless Council. They still need food and places to stay.

At Leader Publications, we understand that homelessness is a complex issue with no clear answers. We understand that local governments operate on limited resources and that addressing homelessness likely requires more resources than we have. However, we also know that when we come together, there is nothing we can’t do.

In our communities, we have seen the community come together again and again to help those in need. Right now, we need to see our communities come together and keep up the momentum that the warming centers started. Local residents, churches and nonprofit organizations need to come together to address the issue of homelessness. We have already begun to see this happen in Dowagiac with a committee started last month to brainstorm ways to help the homeless within city limits. But now, we need to follow through. We know that when the whole community works together, we can take care of our most vulnerable residents.

Opinions expressed are those of general manager Ambrosia Neldon, sports editor Scott Novak, and reporters Kelsey Hammon, Sarah Culton and Adam Droscha.