It’s easy — especially as spring rains leave us awash in blooms; hopeful green frames our twinkling blue waters; and Adirondack chairs return to the porch — to see the idyllic side of our community.
But there’s a contingent we don’t see — as many eyes avert from the homeless population who share our streets, parks and libraries.
Then a man is killed off a trail at Boardman Lake, and hikers find his body, his throat slashed.
James Clair Chisholm — a 62-year-old man with local family ties and a son — was found near a tent he’d been living in, 15 yards from the shore.
It’s horrific, and we, like everyone else, seek answers to all our many questions. Who among us would do such a thing? Are we as safe here as we think?
But safety is scant for the homeless among us.
Police frequently respond to reports of violence involving, and against, people living on the streets, said Capt. Jim Bussell last week.
We recall a string of attacks against homeless people, a stabbing; someone being hit with a stick; about young people kicking a man bloody; and groups of teenagers lighting fireworks and throwing gravel at a group of sleeping homeless men.
The local homeless population know well the dangers, said Ryan Hannon, street outreach coordinator for Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan.
“They don’t have a safe way to be off the streets and a door to lock,” Hannon said. “They’re never fully safe.”
Chisholm’s homicide shook the homeless community, with several people telling us that, while they hadn’t met Chisholm (he had been in town a few weeks) they were spooked.
“Johnny Boy,” said he’s keeping his head on a swivel.
We, too, need to do the same. We need to keep an eye out for each other. That starts with the simple act of seeing the unseen.
“I think we’re all one big community,” Bussell said. “It takes all of us to look out for each other.”
Anyone with information should contact the Traverse City Police Department at 231-995-5012.