Most of us remember the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol”, in which Ebenezer Scrooge, initially refuting the spirit of the Christmas season, is visited by the ghosts of Christmas’s past, present and future. His eyes finally opened to how his miserly ways have put those around him in distress and his lonely and untimely end, Scrooge reforms his ways, becoming a man of generosity with goodwill towards all.
Goodwill towards all. It seems to penetrate so much of our thinking during the holiday seasons. While the stresses of this time of year can be great, the end results; of time spent with friends and loved ones, the giving of that one special gift, or making a donation to a local charity, are immeasurable.
But for far too many, especially the homeless, this time of year is a struggle. Whether in Madison or Milwaukee, or closer to home in Ashland, Superior, or Rice Lake, shelters are doing their best to help the most vulnerable among us. Superior’s Solid Rock Haven provides warm beds, three meals a day, and assistance in finding both stable work and permanent housing. Benjamin’s House in Rice Lake does much of the same, helping residents obtain their GED or aid in finding medical care, all with a warm place to call home at the end of the day.
These homes and the organizations that run them are so important to the health of our communities and in helping to lift individuals out of homelessness. But they can’t do this important work alone. They need our help. That ranges from gifts of everyday goods like toothbrushes, paper towels, and canned goods, to monetary donations.
Both Governor Evers and many legislators have seen this need and have worked hard to address it. Earlier this year a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a package of eight bills that would provide short-term grants or loans to help defray housing costs, create more beds at emergency shelters, and pay for skills training for those interested, among other actions. All eight of these bills passed the State Assembly unanimously earlier this year but my Republican colleagues in the State Senate have failed to act on this legislation. Governor Evers has asked the Joint Finance Committee to separately release the funds by the end of year, but this too has been rejected. At a time when the temperature is only getting colder, and the needs ever greater, Republican Senators have chosen to do nothing.
Ebenezer Scrooge eventually found the spirit of the season. Giving back and helping others when they are down is the true joy that can be found during Christmas, not sticking up one’s nose to those in need with a short “Bah humbug”. It is my hope that my Republican colleagues can come to that same realization sooner rather than later and release the requested funds that are so desperately needed.