At a time when the Merrimack Valley desperately needs our elected officials at the highest level of government to experience the homeless crisis first hand, Lowell, like so many other communities, sweeps their homeless problem out of sight, or under the rug, as some may say.
At issue; Lowell City Councilor Rita Mercier revealed this month that the homeless who live downtown were cleared away by the city prior to a visit from the governor because they didn’t want the city to “look bad”.
The Lowell Sun reported: “When Gov. Charlie Baker and other state officials came to the city last week to announce a $400,000 grant to improve the South Common, the homeless were moved along and the city cleaned up the area to make it look good for the governor, she said.”
We applaud Rita Mercier’s efforts to shine a spotlight on the homeless issue as too many in power have ignored it for far too long. We know she’s a pit-bull who will do everything humanly possible to find real – short term and longer term – solutions for the addicted and homeless.
But this isn’t just a Lowell problem.
Former Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera was notorious for bulldozing homeless encampments and clearing out the homeless when high level government officials came to town, or when events were to take place that draw in outsiders.
We believe this is the absolute wrong approach to dealing with the overwhelming crisis of homelessness and addiction in our communities.
We say let Governor Baker, and every other government official, see the human carnage first-hand every day like the rest of us. Let’s stop pretending this isn’t a monumental crisis and let those in charge of solving the problem deal with the results of their failed policies and programs for the last ten years.
Let them feel as uncomfortable as the rest of us are when we have to deal with this human tragedy as it invades our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, and our public parks. Ignoring the ugly reality on our streets only allows them to dismiss this issue as either someone else’s responsibility or not a big enough priority to tackle.
The number of people who become homeless or addicted grows every day as Americans of every race, age, and faith have been discarded by those who run our government. This needs to stop. These are our sons and daughters, our parents and even grandparents. They deserve more respect than this.
We don’t have all the answers on the homeless and addiction crisis, but we do know that moving the homeless out of sight is not among them.
We also do not want you to overlook the stunning irony of the governor spending more of your tax money on parks in Lowell, so that the homeless will have a prettier place to live in, litter with needles, and defecate in. Maybe that $400,000 should have been used for more rooming houses or temporary housing.
While we must be compassionate and offer as much help as we can to those on the streets, we cannot begin to address real solutions by denying the quality-of-life problems they cause in our communities.
We are all suffering from this crisis.
It’s time to take the bull by the horns and we are glad that Rita Mercier is one of those people willing to do so. ◊