If there is one thing that Michael Gorman and his volunteers at TMF (The Movement Family) have proved over the last six months, it’s that helping the homeless and making people’s lives better only takes one thing: effort.
For six months TMF offered food, clothing, detox services, transitional housing, and other counseling services to the homeless one night a week at the Buckley Garage on Common Street in Lawrence. (See story).
Their rate of success was staggering. In the six months they operated out of the Buckley Garage, TMF fed hundreds of people and was able to get more than 20 homeless people into detox and transitional housing. Countless homeless people sought other services like psychological counseling and spiritual relief. In short, TMF was putting a big dent in the homeless problem, while local officials whined that the problem was too big to solve.
TMF didn’t do this by having meetings, grandstanding in front of cameras, or running for public office. They did it by showing up with food. The did it by actually talking to them and ASKING them what they needed. TMF then sought the help of Tewksbury Detox, reached out to local church groups, and simply did the work of caring for people who have no place to go – with no idea how to get out of the rut they are in – no questions asked.
WHY ARE ALL THE HOMELESS IN LAWRENCE?
There is no doubt that the opioid crisis has fueled the homeless crisis across the country.
The Merrimack Valley seems to have been hit particularly hard. Yet, local officials in suburbs like Andover, North Andover, and Methuen offer zero services for their citizens who become homeless. There are no homeless shelters in Methuen or Andover. There are no transitional housing programs in North Andover or Boxford, and no soup kitchens in Groveland or Georgetown.
That means if you live in those towns and find yourself addicted and out in the cold, there’s only one place for you to go for help, Lawrence.
That’s why most of the homeless people in Lawrence are not actually from Lawrence, something that rightfully irks Lawrence officials, including Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera.
And while we agree that suburban communities need to start doing their fair share to help their own citizens, that’s a long term issue that requires long term solutions. It’s not going to be resolved today.
What Michael Gorman and TMF are doing helps homeless people today – right now – when the temperature is 8 degrees, and they are hungry, with no blankets, while sleeping out in the cold.
Local officials could learn something from TMF. Having meetings about meetings, and grandstanding at “summits” solves nothing. Dismissing the problem as something that the state and federal government should solve helps even less. Simply moving the homeless out of public view – as Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera has done – actually makes the problem worse. If we are going to begin to tackle the homeless and addiction problem here in the Valley we have to start with local officials getting off their backsides, going out into the community, and actually helping people.
We are disgusted that most non-profits in this area only seem to care about the homeless when they can get rich off government grants. We are disgusted that local elected officials have ignored the problem and treated the issue as a nuisance rather than a crisis.
But, mostly we are saddened to see that while Mike Gorman and TMF have stepped up to the plate, they have been stopped from doing so in a city like Lawrence, where the need is the greatest and the human devastation is the worst.
Thank you Michael Gorman and TMF for showing us with your actions that more can be done to help solve this problem, and that the answer is not relying on the government. If only more people would take your lead, stop pretending that they care, and actually go out and do something about it. ◊