Monthly Archives: February 2010

Haiti Still Needs Help

By Dr. Chad Audi

Recently I wrote about the urgent needs of Haiti’s citizens after a deadly earthquake devastated the impoverished country, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. Today, nearly a month after the quake, a lot still needs to be done to provide shelter, food and medical care for people who saw their homes literally crumble all around them.

The recovery work has been steady and ongoing, but an estimated one million Haitians remain homeless. They’re camped out in makeshift shelters as the debate between the Haitian government and its international aid partners continues over how and where to shelter the quake victims. The Haitian president says at least 200,000 tents are urgently needed; others say a more long-term, cost-effective solution is more desirable. In the meantime, the U.S. and other aid groups are sending Haiti more than 10,000 rolls of durable plastic sheeting that can be used to shelter up to ten people per roll.

As the debate continues, another major concern is looming. Haiti’s rainy season is quickly approaching, which could result in the further destruction of buildings and the spread of serious diseases. The images of families living in makeshift tents, consisting of bed sheets propped on sticks, are absolutely heart-wrenching. The need for temporary, durable shelter is imperative in order to provide some sense of safety and protection. I know that a relief effort of this size is extremely difficult and complicated, but the lives of Haitians must be placed first and foremost.

As a testament to human spirit and resilience, there are glimmers of “normalcy” emerging in Haiti. Adults are selling fruits and vegetables on the street, and children have returned to playing games. There is hope among Haitians. Let’s keep them in our prayers.

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Looking Past Homelessness

By Dr. Chad Audi

Isn’t it interesting how some people can leave a lasting impression on so many others? Two recent stories remind me that regardless of a person’s social background or economic standing, it’s the human spirit inside that truly makes a difference.

Guy Myers of Sunnyvale, California was better known as “Guitar Man.” He was homeless, yet he always found a place in his heart to help others. Even more than he helped himself. According to his son, Myers battled an alcohol addiction for several years. He slept in the bushes off a major highway and was a fixture at several Sunnyvale locations where he would strum his guitar and sing for passersby. Tragically, the 58-year-old Myers was fatally struck by a car last month. The community has reacted with an outpouring of support. A shrine was erected outside a 7-Eleven store where Myers often hung out, and he was remembered in several online messages. A retired school employee wrote a poem about Myers called, “Ramblin’ Guitar Man.”

Here in Detroit, regular visitors to our popular Greektown neighborhood — a dining and shopping destination — became very familiar with an elderly woman known as “Greektown Stella.” Stella Paris was believed to be in her mid-90s when she died last month at a Detroit nursing home. For nearly three decades, she lived on the streets of Greektown, frequently screaming in Greek at passersby. The feisty, eccentric woman suffered from schizophrenia. She was loved by family and strangers, but her mental illness often made life difficult. The police allowed Greektown Stella to sleep and wash her clothes at the nearby headquarters and kept a watchful eye on her safety. Despite her quirky and combative personality, Stella was a beloved fixture in Greektown.

Both are examples of individuals who were homeless, but who touched numerous lives. In Myers’ case, he seemed to care more about other people than he cared about himself. He just wanted to make people happy with his music. Stella Paris provided a colorful part of Greektown’s history and will be missed by many. In their own unique ways, they created lasting memories for many.

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