Government's Role: Protect the Vulnerable

The hit job in today’s Citrus Chronicle editorial on the Salvation Army deserves a comment or two.

Even the editorial's headline “County’s Homeless Given the Cold Shoulder” was a play on words that left the impression the Salvation Army was turning its back on the poor and homeless in Citrus County. That is not true, and the editors of our local paper should know better.

The editorial starts by saying the Salvation Army exists to meet “need wherever, whenever, and however we can…unless you’re a homeless person in Citrus County.” However, the Salvation Army shut down its emergency cold weather station because of a lack of volunteers, lack of clients, and requirements for training to prevent the abuse of children and adults and not a lack of interest and concern. The editorial then asked, where is the compassion for our County’s homeless when they are most vulnerable, implying that the Salvation Army lacked the compassion it ought to have? Finally, the editorial speaks of how the Salvation Army trumpets its homeless shelters but can't find a new home for its emergency shelter, leaving the impression the Army was 100% responsible for resolving this societal problem.

When I finished reading the editorial (twice), it was clear, in the Editorial Board’s opinion, that the lack of an emergency shelter was 100% the fault of the Salvation Army. So, therefore, in the opinion of the Chronicle Editorial Board, the Salvation Army needs to get cracking, find a shelter and fix this problem.

Protecting the weak and vulnerable is a role of government. But that was mentioned slightly in passing. We seem to be able to find dollars for an animal shelter. What about a people shelter? What role can the sheriff and fire departments take in resolving this problem? They have the buildings and the staffing. What about the highway department? They have heated facilities. (I can hear Commissioner Kitchen mumbling: “They want the government to do everything.”)

The Salvation Army has been a leader in the fight for the homeless. Maybe it’s time others step forward and join the Army and do something about the least of us.

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