A proposal to house homeless veterans at a mental health agency in North Canton is a real-world example of the difficulties that challenge how we define patriotism.
At the outset of World War I, the city of North Canton was so patriotic, it changed from its original name of New Berlin.
Last year, residents dedicated a new veterans memorial plaque, and North Canton is one of the few communities where residents actually attend their Memorial Day parade.
A proposal to house homeless veterans at the Harleigh Inn at 500 N. Main St. by ICAN, a mental health agency, is a real-world example of the difficulties that challenge how we define patriotism.
Practicing compassion can be difficult because it costs us something more than money. It demands that we sidestep the fears and prejudices that lurk like so many monsters beneath the bed.
Compassion tests our will, particularly in cases in which people repeatedly set their lives on fire, then expect the government, a nonprofit agency or their exhausted families to douse the flames.
Yet even this does not absolve us from doing what we can for those who have done so much for us, especially at a time when the disconnect between civilians and those in military service has never been greater.
One of the underlying problems with the Harleigh Inn proposal was that ICAN was not more forthcoming about who might be living in the complex. We cannot paper over the fact that 76 percent of homeless veterans suffer from mental health or substance abuse problems, and any attempt to minimize this or to make concerned people feel guilty only exacerbates the problem.
CANTON DOES ITS SHARE
But where, exactly, should these veterans live? The unspoken answer always seems to be Canton. But Canton has always borne its share. Cantonians want the same things as neighboring communities, namely a safe place to live. Why wouldn’t they?
ICAN could have alleviated residents’ fears by strictly limiting the facility to veterans, which is permissible by law, and by enacting a strict code of conduct including structured mental health treatment and mandatory drug and alcohol screening.
Some of the blame rests with housing programs that don’t provide care but simply are warehousing people, so it’s no wonder some North Cantonians were dubious and, yes, even afraid.
When done properly, such projects can work, as evidenced by ICAN’s brownstones on 12th Street NW in Canton and the ICAN residences that already exist in North Canton that most residents weren’t aware of — which only proves their success.
Not surprisingly, the Harleigh Inn project has been tabled. It is a lost opportunity to show the rest of Stark County how it could and should be done.