The Herald News has published a follow up article on the homeless crisis in the City of Passaic. The second article focuses on the need for a shelter. The solution to Forys’ homelessness in permanent housing not a shelter. A shelter would not be the solution as Mary “Forys prefers Main Avenue to a shelter, which she considers too dangerous.” The editorial correctly holds Passaic to “the moral responsibility of working with community activists to provide safe shelter for people with no place to go.” We agree but again the solution is permanent, affordable and supportive housing!
At 53, Mary Forys has fallen through the holes in the society’s safety net. She’s landed hard on the streets of Passaic, where she hustles money for food. At night, she curls up behind a garbage can to sleep, a throwaway person in a disposable culture.
Since her parents died five years ago, the former hospital technician has wrestled with booze, drugs and depression. Her demons have pinned her down, and she hasn’t found a way to break free and stay that way. To make matters worse, she suffers from Parkinson’s disease.
Forys, who was profiled by reporter Meredith Mandel in the Herald News on Sunday, is among 1,300 people who make their way each day in Passaic County without a place to live. About 349 people are categorized as being chronically homeless.
Like Forys’ downward spiral from her middle-class upbringing in Garfield to a hardscrabble existence on Passaic’s Main Avenue, the causes of homelessness are complex.
Some people, including those with jobs, are rendered homeless by our prosperous state’s high cost of housing. Alcohol and substance abuse have sent others reeling onto the streets. So have mental illness and various diseases.
Nevertheless, some homeless people resist being placed in shelters because they cannot play by the rules, which include curfews and zero tolerance for substance abuse.
Forys prefers Main Avenue to a shelter, which she considers too dangerous. She fears being robbed. After all, two men in a shelter once stole $50 from her. In November her crocheted blanket was taken at a shelter.
When on the streets, the woman some call “Smelly Mary” sometimes gets into trouble. She’s been arrested more than a dozen times for panhandling and drug use. Police say she sometime refuses medical treatment and other help. As Jane Grubin, Passaic human services director says, “It’s not against the law to destroy yourself.”
Forys, a former ballet student, is free to dance with death. Other people are free to hold their noses and avert their eyes when they pass her.
But Passaic, which has been without a homeless shelter for more than 10 years, should not be free from the moral responsibility of working with community activists to provide safe shelter for people with no place to go.