Mayor Carl Brewer made an impassioned plea to his fellow city council members in a workshop Tuesday, trying to overcome the philosophical differences on the government’s role in ending not only “chronic homelessness” but homelessness in general. That plea came after Council member Paul Gray questioned whether the city should spend any additional money on a plan that the faith-based community might be able to fund. Gray noted that The Lord’s Diner has been run for years with private donations. “If they’re willing to do it, why do we have to do it?” he asked. Council member Sue Schlapp was also skeptical, saying that people tend to donate more when government isn’t involved. “It makes me always nervous to think that if we throw taxpayer dollars in that the rest of the community then backs off,” she said.
Then Brewer tried to change some minds, and he said the city must do its best to end chronic homelessness and then move on to helping others who are a paycheck away from being on the streets. It’s something, Brewer said, that many people sitting on the council and in City Hall may not understand because they haven’t been there.
“I wish there was someway you could flip the script and put the policy makers in the shoes of the homeless person,” Brewer said, using a tone that he has used only a few key topics, such as gang violence. “If there was some way that that could ever happen, I think that people’s attitudes would change. We have never experienced the suffering that those individuals have to suffer.”
Brewer grew up poor, a fact that he has only discussed on a few occasions. And he hasn’t yet brought it up in the context of the plans to end homelessness.
The Mayor also emphasized that some of those on the streets are the people who fought for the country in Iraq and Afghanistan, something that the task force has noted as well. He said many men and women come home only to immediately lose their jobs, leaving them with one last paycheck to live on at a time when they may be struggling to re-adapt to life without explosions and death. Many of them end up homeless, he said. “War does that.”
With clear philosophical differences among council members, it remains unclear how they will vote when they’re asked to endorse the plan April 1.