Last week I wrote about the bravery of Ukraine fighting for its freedom and very survival. And that their sacrifice for the greater good of their multi-cultural society has forged them into a titanium-solid society and fighting force. Ukraine reawakens our respect for basic democratic norms and rules. “Use it or lose it,” we understand ever more clearly.
Through Ukraine, also coming into clear view is our compassion for the displaced. Most readers have seen photos of throngs of women and children lined thousands deep, heading out on trains from Ukraine to peace in Poland or Romania. We’ve seen refugee families, killed while pulling luggage and carrying children. We’ve witnessed the dislocation of 2.5 million Ukrainians so far – with an estimated 5 million fleeing before this intentionally inflicted human tragedy is over.
We know what 60,000 homeless looks like in Los Angeles, and it isn’t pretty. Picture 5 million desperate people with only clothes on their backs and perhaps a bag or two. Everything left behind. Family, jobs, businesses, homes, houses, everything — just to get out and live. Or to protect their children or grandchildren. Fleeing the familiar into what for many is a completely unknown new world — just to survive.
And, despite the millions who’ve fled Ukraine, so far, we’ve not seen “tent cities” most associate with international refugees. Europeans of all types have opened their homes to these millions of fleeing Ukrainians. Strangers opened their home at all hours to strangers. The human kindness shown Ukrainians has been awe-inspiring and gives hope for a broader kindness to come. It recalibrates our value for freedom, resets our distaste for war, and reignites our compassion for others in need. While nothing good comes from war, if we’re astute, we will at least re-learn our values from it.
Last weekend a neighbor we’ve known for 32 years came over to let us know he’s suffering from an extremely serious illness. He wanted to say how much he has appreciated having our two families grow up together, how we shared so much together, and have been friends all this time. We love this family dearly…
This incredibly emotional experience got us thinking about our home and community… how having such a stable place to live has blessed our entire family and all our neighbors, together. Last night, Carrie and I slowly walked around outside, considering where the kids used to run around and play — and how much we are connected to this place and our amazing neighbors. We thought about how having a dependable roof over our heads and familiar neighbors for fully one half of our lives has been so beneficial, sustaining and humanizing.
“Home” means so much.
Today I attended the Bridge to Home homeless facility groundbreaking. From humble beginnings 30 years ago, Bridge to Home will finally have a real, purpose-built facility to house, assist, protect, train and relaunch into mainstream society the roughly 800-plus homeless currently living around us.
Our Santa Clarita Valley displaced and homeless often live in riverbeds, natural areas, and in parks and paseos, and sadly, often with kids in tow. These are our own “life refugees” — where something went wrong, like a slow-moving addiction, or perhaps suddenly, like a spousal attack.
However it happened, we have our own refugees, and they need shelter and normalcy, just like the rest of us.
Let’s say it again: The homeless around us need shelter, just like all of us.
It’s not recommended or safe for ordinary folks to take in homeless people on their own. We don’t know the underlying conditions so we must depend on professionals to administer the compassion we wish for those homeless around us.
This new Bridge to Home facility will have the unique resources required to meet the special needs of our “life refugees.” Medical, psychological, vocational, and beds with dependable roofs overhead are all provided.
In Bridge to Home and Family Promise — and other SCV homeless intervention organizations — we’re expressing the similar acts of human kindness as the Poles, Romanians and other Europeans are extending to Ukraine. We’re expressing the same love that built the comforting neighborhoods and friendships that bless our lives and sharing that with our most distressed.
Thanks to all who’ve worked so hard over so many years to bring a permanent Bridge to Home to reality. This largely private venture is still looking for building fund donations. Go to: btohome.org to get compassionately involved!
Looking near and far at the world we see we can’t have “too much humanity” or “too much understanding.” Ukraine’s tragedy brings this to the forefront of our thinking. In addition to helping Ukraine itself, our response to that crisis should also be to love our neighbors more, love our community more, and to love one another more compassionately — as we’re now doing with the new Bridge to Home homeless shelter facility, now under construction.
Congratulations, SCV, you’ve done good! And so also may each of us individually, as we now see clearly, in so many ways.
Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.