Leter to the Editor – A Different Take on the Homeless Issue

The Enterprise Mountaineer – October 31, 2021

I recently read an article written by the current Episcopalian rector of Grace Church in the Mountains, Joslyn Schaefer,  “Forgiveness may be a civic virtue.”  Her piece appeared in the October 20 edition of the Mountaineer.

I have no problem with Schaefer coming to  spiritual conclusions regarding civic matters and the role that forgiveness can play- we are all entitled to our own insights and opinions.  However,  we are not entitled to our own facts.  In this case,  the pretext that Schaefer based her position on is false.

In her article,  Schaefer lamented what she saw and heard during the first 35 minutes of a town hall meeting;  she was referring to a meeting of the Board of Alderman on October 12.  The first 35 minutes included some of the public comment section,  and much (in fact to my recollection, ALL) of the public comment revolved around the subject of how the town of Waynesville was dealing with the homeless situation,  vis-a-vis the homeless task force. 

Schaefer said it was painful hearing “threats”, “misinformation and mischaracterizations”,  and “lots of anger directed at the aldermen and town officials.” She then took it upon herself to assert that “such angry speech”  was intended to inflict “hurt and pain.”

Schaefer is not a disconnected spectator citizen;  she is an appointed  member of the homeless task force,  and most likely wants to see  that the recommendations of the task force are approved.  However, it should be said that many people in the community harbor opposing views,  and I would surmise that it is this very public outcry that is at the root of why Schaefer describes the meeting as a painful experience. 

I was at this meeting,  and I was one of the people that spoke my opinion on the matter.  As a matter of fact,  I was one of 15 who voiced their opinion- opinions which unanimously opposed what the town’s homeless task force and their director had their designs on pushing forward with.   

The speeches came from people of all kinds of backgrounds and life experiences;  diligent and compelling research and facts were presented to bolster their arguments and concerns.  While  there certainly was dissatisfaction coming from citizens in attendance in response to task force facilitator  Amy Murphy-Nugen’s report and her  “statistical findings”,  the groans in the audience were understandable;  in fact the only “misinformation and mischaracterizations” present at the meeting were those coming from Murphy-Nugen’s presentation.  Citizens who care enough to do their homework know better.

That being said,  I can assure you that there is absolutely no ill will intended towards the board of alderman,  town officials,  or task force members.  At the end of the day,  these very people are amongst our neighbors and friends.  None of us have any interest in inflicting hurt and pain. I can also assure that there were no threats, misinformation,  or mischaracterization.

Those that spoke out just happened to be citizens who did so out of a sense of love for their community,  and are very concerned about the future and feel of this very town that they chose to call home.  As citizens,  shouldn’t all of us be striving to do this very thing? 

Erich Overhultz

Waynesville, NC