I feel very fortunate to have been one of the many area volunteers for the annual Point-in-Time Homeless count in New Bedford.To be honest, when myself and three others set out for the interviews on Wednesday afternoon, I had no idea what to expect.

While riding to the area near City Hall with Carl Alves, who is the director of PAACA (Positive Action Against Chemical Addiction), he was telling us of the of the several reasons that people find themselves on the streets with nowhere to go. It makes it easy to realize that it's a situation that could happen to almost anyone.

Walking the windy streets of the blocks near City Hall, we were so very cold. It opened my eyes to the fact that there are those who are outside in those conditions all day, and sometimes all night.

We spent several minutes talking to a man who is a former veteran. He honorably served our country. He was also a fisherman who spent years on the boats. He was married with children and living in Dartmouth. After his kids had grown and left home, he found himself divorced.

At that point, he moved into a downtown apartment. He spent his free time caring for his elderly mother. When she passed away, he made some unfortunate decisions. He began drinking heavily, became addicted to the alcohol and lost his job. Once that happened, it wasn't long until he was homeless.

The man told us that his grown children no longer live in the area, and he is too ashamed to contact them to ask for help. His intention is to turn his life around first. But when you are living on the street with no income and an addiction, how do you turn things around? He also mentioned that the Veterans Administration has been of no help in assisting him. He feels "written off" as he put it.

Soon, the PAACA van came to the area and gave our friend and a few other homeless persons a ride to their building on Coggeshall Street. They would be given a warm meal and access to the overflow shelter. It would be opened that night since the temperature was dropping well below the 28-degree mark.

After yesterday's experience, I will never view those that are homeless in the same light. They are people who have had bad luck, perhaps made bad decisions, or have experienced mental health issues with no one in their lives to assist them in getting treatment.

I also realize how very lucky most of us are in our lives. I can't imagine being on the streets on a cold day, having nowhere to go to get warm or even a meal. It's terrible. We all need to do whatever we can to help the homeless and help end their situation. You can help by referring to the link below.

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