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General In the News

The Snowball Effect – It Doesn’t Take Much

By Will Arvelo

Many of you may know that I have been spending an hour every morning from 8-9am in Market Square doing a vigil for homelessness and lack of affordable housing. It is an opportunity for me to engage visitors and residents in conversation about how the picture of homelessness is changing. My main message is that healthy communities include a place for all. Like most things in life, the definition of healthy is a balance of all the elements and diversity that make up our human community.

The other day I was approached by a woman from Maine. We had a great conversation. She shared a story that highlights how vulnerable we are when in crisis and how beholden we have become to a system that instead of helping often penalizes.

This woman shared that her husband left her with two children and very little money. One day, not long after her husband left, she was pulled over by a young police officer for not having an expired car registration. The woman pleaded with him that she had no money, otherwise she would’ve paid the registration. The police officer would not hear it. In his defense, he had a job to do. Still, this woman was in crisis and the “system” was not understanding or helpful. Now she couldn’t even drive her car to take care of the ticket the officer issued – she was stuck. As she explained, she was caught in a “snowball effect” where a crisis is compounded by a lack empathy, resources, access to information or services, or simply because the rules of normal day living can be inflexible and unforgiving. Luckily for her, she had an understanding landlord who has not raised her rent, so she had avoided getting caught-up in the cycle of becoming unhoused.

The inability to make a rent payment, a car payment, a daycare payment, or pay a health bill, a food bill, or a car registration are just a few of the things that can send life spinning and compound an already difficult situation. These days, it seems these awful but solvable crises are everywhere. In the end more crisis is resulting in more unhoused coming to CRH for the first time.

These are not the best of times, but I hold out every hope that there are better days ahead. Still, CRH is here to help. We continue to serve a critical mission in our community.

Will Arvelo, Executive Director

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