A spring cold snap. Construction delays. COVID-19-related closures.
These factors are mere inconveniences for most of us. Longer waiting times, rescheduled appointments, delayed gratification.
For those whose livelihood is weather-dependent, the cold snap looms larger.
For those who are living without a roof over their heads, the cold can be deadly.
The trifecta of construction, COVID-19 closures and chronic homelessness placed Laura Matkovich in a tent at the Traverse City State Park for the past two weeks.
A coronavirus exposure temporarily closed new registrations at Goodwill Inn. A renovation at Riverview Terrace placed her 13th-in-line status on hold. Instead of spending her stimulus money on a hotel, Matkovich bought camping supplies with a plan to camp until she got housing or Safe Harbor opened up again in the fall.
The cold is the “hardest part,” Matkovich said.
Her story reminds us of how there’s a tipping point for all of us, when our ability to withstand the inconveniences of life get exponentially harder.
Matkovich spent 20 years as a nurse aide before she lost her job, her apartment, her car, and her driver’s license, and ultimately, alcohol-related charges led to five months in Grand Traverse County’s jail. Since 2017 Matkovich has been on Riverview Terrace’s waiting list, moving up from 187 to 13.
But the displacement isn’t helping the severe arthritis in her knees, a torn rotator cuff and a back injury that qualifies her for $866 per month in Social Security Disability Insurance. Medicare and Medicaid insurance will cover knee replacement surgery — but not until she has a stable place to recuperate.
The cascade effect leaves people like Matkovich — and the 900 or so people in the 10-county region without homes — unacceptably vulnerable to conditions that should be inconvenient, not catastrophic.
Housing advocates impress that homelessness makes solvable problems, unsolvable in their compounded, tangled complexity.
We can only hope that it also works the opposite way, that individual acts of tugging on strings can loosen these knots.
Last weekend about 50 volunteers cleaned up an encampment along Keystone Road where Matkovich was headed once her campground reservation expired.
They removed six tons of trash that had accumulated on the public property through the years — a pre-clean up removed more than 1,000 syringes. CARES Act funding spread $1.5 million across 10 northern Lower Peninsula counties for emergency housing vouchers along with another $8 million in eviction prevention; more funding could be on its way.
Weather, construction, pandemic delays — these things happen. But they happen harder for those who can withstand them the least.