Guest column: What the shelter means to me

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By Linda M. Bedtelyon

Naples

After reading the Daily News's special report of Sunday, July 15 regarding St. Matthew's House and homelessness in Collier County, I felt compelled to write my first-ever letter to the editor. I too was a receipient of the good and necessary work of Collier County's St. Matthew's House in the summer and fall of 2009.

Not because I came out of prison or local jail, nor because I had a substance abuse issue.

No, it was the compounding effect of the economy, coupled with family issues, that caused me to seek shelter at the only place I'd heard of that helped people with no place to sleep at night.

I'd had a nine-year career with Collier County's Growth Management division beginning in December of 1999 and like so many of my colleagues was laid off in February 2008 due to the collapse of the housing industry and its associated local governing entities such as permitting, etc.

At 50 years old I drew my first unemployment insurance for a total of six weeks, and was very fortunate to be offered a position with the Naples City Clerk's office, albeit for a considerable reduction in wages than what I had earned working for the county.

Four months into my full-time position as a technical writing specialist for several advisory boards to the City Council, I was also given the position of coordinator of the public art program. I then had two full-time positions for the same amount of annual compensation, and I was grateful for the confidence my boss and associates had in me.

Unfortunately, a series of out-of-state family issues, involving medical emergency decision-making, made it impossible for me to continue my employment with the city, and regretably, I made a very emotional decision to leave without the standard two-week notice.

After a period of several months, with the family matters behind me, I returned to Naples in May 2009 and have been underemployed, unemployed and without any health insurance.

As a single, white female of 55, I know the struggle that exists in the job market, not only in southwest Florida, but nationally. Without not-for-profit organizations and community-based assistance programs such as St. Matthew's House, a much greater number of homeless people would be out there subject to all of the issues you raised/discussed in your special report.

Thank you for your fair and balanced coverage of a topic that I personally believe is not going away anytime soon.

And thanks to the persistent dedication to those in this nationally recognized, affluent community who shine a ray of hope on those of us who have encountered life's various and often complex circumstances, who find ourselves requiring temporary assistance.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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