There’s that famous scene in John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” where Tom Joad’s sister Rose of Sharon, after giving birth to her stillborn child, takes pity on father and son, where the father is weak and malnourished and will almost certainly die if he doesn't get some food. Rose of Sharon Joad, a prideful almost unlikable character through much of the Joads’ family journey from the dust bowl Oklahoma into California, overcomes her pride, offering herself involvement to breastfeed the old man to save him from starvation.
With the recent, last-minute decision to create a warming shelter in a warehouse after a tent city plan failed, in many ways, Pueblo is the Joad family caught between a promised land of growth and opportunity trying to escape the past, moving along some worn road of hope.
Like Rose of Sharon Joad, we are presented with two choices: taking pity on those who have less to lose our pride and give the unthinkable or saving our pride and losing all touch with humanity by failing to act now on this humanitarian crisis.
In a story recently by Colorado Public Radio, Pueblo Rescue Mission Executive Director Kathy Cline called the last minute plan of warehousing the homeless “making it work.”
This isn’t making it work. This solution is last minute, something that shows a failure to address the solution years before, and something that demonstrates a failure of our own humanity.
What happened in Pueblo as the crisis took hold (but not nearly to the level of larger front range cities) was that nonprofits and agencies were being asked to do more for less. The money and resources weren’t there so Pueblo could deal with big city problems. Then the shelters shuttered. Yet this slow-moving disaster was known.
What is new is that Pueblo developed a meanness, an inhumanity along the way...