By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli
As the New Year begins, let’s not be distracted by a political rhetoric that is more fixated on ad hominem attacks and divisiveness but rather let us support positive action on behalf of all Americans.
As we begin a new decade, it is imperative that people from every race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and social class commit themselves to a new social discourse that is grounded in civility and respect for all people no matter what their political and philosophical perspectives. We can no longer remain silent about the reprehensible conduct of those who lead us. Being silent is being complicit. By that silence, we say that this horrific rhetoric and demeaning language is okay.
Our country is founded on the principle We the People. We must renew our commitment to stand up for social justice, for equality and inclusiveness for all people, no matter what their ethnicity, race, color, sexual orientation, economic or social status.
The leaders of our faith community, both locally and nationally, must move out of their coma of silence, not become political or feed the rhetoric of hate and divisiveness, but rather they must stand up and call us to civility and a discourse that supports and respects the human dignity and integrity of every American citizen.
Our moral compass seems to be broken. We can no longer count on those who lead us civically and religiously to recalibrate it. We must have the courage to stand up and be counted to speak out on behalf of the poor, work for social justice, for peace and for human rights for all and believe we can truly make a difference. I see these miracles happening every day. I think they can become contagious.
At the beginning of every new year, we traditionally make a series of New Year resolutions that we break by Jan. 2. This year let’s identify some important social issues that urgently need to be addressed and work diligently at creative solutions that will improve the quality of life in all of our communities.
Homelessness is a growing problem across our county. Our traditional approach is a poor Band-Aid that sets most homeless people up for failure. The poor and the homeless live in the shadows. They’ve no fixed address so they have no political representation — no one to voice their concerns and struggles.
Our Department of Social Services, which is charged to deal with the homeless, is working with an antiquated model that is outdated and inefficient. Therefore, costing you, the taxpayer, an extraordinary amount of money and does little to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness in our midst.
Let us be mindful that more and more of our homeless are mentally ill, drug addicts and returning veterans suffering from untreated PTSD. We lack the basic human resources to break their cycle of dependency on the system.
Although Suffolk County has seen a decrease in fatal opioid overdose, the opioid crisis is still devastating communities across America. We are still paying lip service to a national infection but are doing little to treat it effectively. Evidence-based treatment says we need long-term residential treatment beds for a minimum of one year to 18 months, if we hope to empower the recovering addict to wellness and long-term recovery.
We have very limited resources in this regard. The few resources we do have are overtaxed with referrals and are underfunded. The time for talking is over; it’s a time for positive action!
May this new year and new decade be a new beginning for making our country great again — grounded in dignity and respect for all. Let us become the change we hope for!
Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.