I woke up this morning thinking about homeless people, and how sad it is that we haven’t found a solution for them. I didn’t know that Reagan was the one who shut down Mental Health Institutions and cut funding for mental health. I live a mile as the crow flies( I am dating myself with that expression!) from the Old Elkhart County Home. It was shut down in the 1970’s. It was an amazing structure. It needed a lot of work and of course it was not deemed necessary to refurbish. You know it all costs money. You probably know me well enough by now to know I can be very sarcastic.

The Old Elkhart County Home was a home to many residents, who otherwise would have been homeless. Some were mentally ill, handicapped or just plain poor. It wasn’t until approximately six years ago that I found out that my great-great-grandfather was a superintendent of the Old Elkhart County Home. When I first read this information, I thought he must have been a doctor. He wasn’t. In fact he had a crippled arm and was limited to what jobs he could perform. I don’t know much about him but he sounds like he was a pretty interesting character. His first wife and daughter died leaving him a widower living alone. He was delivering grain to Bonneyville Mill in Bristol, Indiana, where he met the amazing beauty queen, Urilla Shoup, who was there attending a family reunion. They later, fell in love, and married.( I wonder if they actually fell in love?) I heard from an older cousin who has since passed that she was a bit headstrong, stubborn and that my great-grandmother and her sisters refused to care for her when she was incapacitated. They paid to have her taken care of, I am assuming. Maybe the caretakers were volunteers. There is also the possibility that she was a wonderful woman and it was the daughters who were mean. I digress.

The Old Elkhart County Home was pretty much self-efficient. The residents tended gardens, and had animals for food. Back in those days they didn’t have the medications that they do now, and the violent ones or those with severe mental illness were confined in cells in the lower level. It sounds horrifying to me. Before the Home was shut down and later demolished, I knew someone who worked there. She said that she regularly brought games in treats in for the residents because they had very little other than the bare necessities.

In spite of the primitive care that they received, at least they had a home, food and a roof over there heads. There are unmarked graves in a very primitive graveyard, which now has a fence around it in Oxbow Park where the dead were buried.

When I was a little girl I remember seeing a bum, tramp, hobo, whatever name we used to call them, sitting on the step outside the door at my grandma’s house. He was eating a plate of food, provided by my grandma. I wondered why he was eating outside, and felt shy around him. I don’t remember saying a word to him, nor he to me. Later I heard that those men would ride the railroad cars and knew which houses to go to, to get a meal. There was a signal of some kind, to alert them of who would provide them with a meal. My grandmother would definitely be someone who provide these men with a meal.

In a country such as ours, which used to be considered the wealthiest in the world, I think it is an abomination that we don’t take better care of those who are drug addicted, mentally ill and homeless. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that we can and should do better. If we can spend money on trips to outer space, and many other projects that the government deems necessary, we can surely afford to help people in need. We are living in a nightmare as I write this. We are some of the fortunate ones. We have food, shelter and we are relatively safe, for now. There are many families who don’t know when they are going to be evicted, or who don’t have enough to feed their families. Forget about healthcare. What is the government doing for them? All we can do is hope and pray for a better America and a better world. God bless America, and the whole world too, no exceptions.