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What’s More Important Now … First Aid? or Long-term Solutions?

by | Mar 19, 2020 | Formation, Homelessness, Reflections

Which is more important?

One way of summarizing a good deal of political discussion today seems to be where should the focus be – first aid or long term solutions.

Of course, the obvious answer is both. But sometimes the obvious answer is not possible. What then?

There are many areas where test cases for painful choices manifest themselves to us and call for prioritized actions. Some of the most obvious test cases in this age of the coronavirus are those who are above the age of 80 and the homeless and displaced persons.

Italy is actively discussing whether to ration medical assistance to those over 80. (This hits close to home since I live with many still-working priests who are older than 80). Last week I reflected generically on the impact of the virus on the homeless. This week I would like to put a face on the problem.

Putting a face on the problem

Magdalena puts a face on the problem. People are being told to shelter in place. But where is that place and is it possible to follow the guidelines we have been hearing.  Here is a story of one woman who is affected.

Magdalena lives in a sanctioned homeless camp in Austin, Texas. She is a survivor. Magdalena has 17 years sober. She raised 12 children. She survived cancer, two strokes, and domestic violence. But now, as a disabled homeless woman, Magdalena is scared about dying from Coronavirus and is not leaving her tent area.

Magdalena cried her first night at Governor Greg Abbott’s homeless camp and she cried her first night homeless in Tampa. Magdalena says she had a beautiful apartment. She now sits in a broken wheelchair after pawning her electric wheelchair to get money for a place to live when she went to Tampa.
Magdalena only receives $783 a month, which is not enough to afford rent much less have some money for basic living expenses. Magdalena says she doesn’t choose to be homeless. She is stuck there.

Watch this short video as she tells her story. Right now she needs both first aid and a long-term solution.

Implications for the Vincentian Family

We need the ambitious program of the 13 houses project. But we also need first aid now… especially if people like Magdalena are to make it through to benefit from our long-range plans.

The Vincentian approach remains BOTH/AND!

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