Cape May’s Untouchables

Cape May’s Untouchables

A cry for help for Cape May’s most vulnerable during a time of crisis.

By Barbara Skinner | April 1, 2020

Upon first glance, those new to our county see a beautiful landscape—so many pretty churches, with their steeples aimed towards the heavens. When one searches below this horizon, a different picture soon emerges. Homeless people, poverty, unemployment, single moms with children with limited options (where to put these children while mom is working), scarce jobs (now ever more scarce with this rampant COVID-19 crisis). 

Facebook reveals more animosity based on self-righteous fear, for the City Dwellers escaping their communities to come to our healthy, salty, fresh ocean air and significantly less populated communities. When tuberculosis was rampant some 70+ years ago, people similarly sought fresh air, from another air borne disease of the lungs.

Now, more than ever, the need for a shelter is a public health concern. Yet, we still have none.  Evidently, the elected Freeholders and other politicians deny the need to build a shelter, even while being advised of persons living in the woods in Rio Grande, or under the boardwalk in Wildwood or adjacent towns. They rely instead on volunteer non-profit groups such as The Branches Outreach Center and other non-profits, as well as a very select few church bodies, to satisfy the government’s job of addressing this community wide issue. 

Contrary to the teaching of treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated, or empathy for the poor, Cape May County government stands out among NJ as refusing to build such a shelter.  The Barnabas House in Wildwood with an adjacent food pantry is shut. Another group, Lazarus House, also shut. Where are these people to go? Another person advised me how for decades the prisoners, and others, from North Jersey are told to come here, get a voucher and sleep in the motels without real restrictions—paid for by the government. 

Florida has now just set up tent cities for their homeless. While we don’t enjoy the population of Tampa, there is no good reason not to immediately adequately fund ongoing efforts by Cape Hope to establish a permanent shelter in the Rio Grande area, rather than the band-aid of the continual offering of temporary vouchers to the low-cost motels, without a permanent solution of real assistance through job training, detox, and rehabilitation for these persons.

Many of the homeless are the former children of Cape May County, attended our schools and whose families are buried in our cemeteries.  NJ211 is now providing temporary aid but these homeless persons need permanent solutions. We can call the Red Cross 800-733-2767 and ask for THEIR additional help to distribute hand sanitizers, etc…, but it is our simple humane duty, regardless of religion, to help these people and implement permanent solutions.

It might seem that our government is failing under the Doctrine of Public Trust to adequately protect the citizens from what is now a public health threat, made even more so, by unprotected and vulnerable persons living among us, yet invisible to those in power.

They are now, just as before, Cape May’s Untouchables.

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