Should we care if people are struggling?
By: Steve Trubilla
Have you ever been hungry, homeless, or sitting in the dark because you could not afford to pay your electric bill?
Had to wash a baby with bottled water, because you did not have the money to pay your water bill?
About two weeks ago, someone shared a story with me about a woman with small children living in Franklin County that was told if she did not pay a $170 water bill, the town she lives in was going to turn her water off. I did a little checking and found the story was true.
The woman tried to get help from the many places that offer such help. She found the local need is such that funds had been exhausted helping others. Everyone one said they were very sorry.
Checking further, I was told due to the transition of Franklin County acquiring the Franklinton water facilities, there was nothing that could be done. It was not even possible for the woman to make partial payment to keep the water on.
The explanation I was given included something to do with closing out accounts receivables to transfer everything over to the county.
The more I learned the more I wanted to know. The woman's husband had been seriously injured on his job causing him to be temporarily out of work. They have small children, one of whom, I am told was born in December with very serious disabilities.
Knowing this, I simply could not believe the town would just turn off their water. Certainly not over a $170 water bill.
Imagine living with all this family has being dealing with, having babies, and the town just turns off your water; nothing personal "just business."
I spoke with the Franklinton town manager, Tammy Ray, clearly a caring and compassionate person. I could see in her eyes, and hear in her voice, she wanted to help not only this woman, but everyone that needed it.
She shared with me she was aware of the situation, but had not been asked personally to intervene, and that many were having problems paying their water bills. For that matter, she said, the town was having problems paying its bills. The town has suffered the loss of considerable revenue.
There are rules, procedures, and probably laws that limit what she can do. I could be wrong, but my suspicions are she has bent them all trying to help people. It would not surprise me to learn she has reached into her pocket for many of them.
In the conduct of all of this, I learned much more. It is no secret there are many people struggling in Franklin County.
I say no secret, but you know in many ways it is a secret. I do not hear it talked about at meetings. To some extent I think it is even being hidden.
Empty buildings and high utility bills will not attract new business or investment.
I have been to places in Franklin County that bring to mind the poverty I have seen in third world countries.
If you want to see it, walk some of the back streets of Louisburg. It is there for those that want to see it. It is in other places as well.
There are people living without running water and electricity. Children going to bed hungry; it is true, very true.
There are thousands of people without access to basic medical care. Some are making choices between food and medication.
Doubt this, then call, no better yet, go and visit with the Franklin County Volunteers in Medicine.
Did you know there are "soup kitchens" and food pantries in Franklin County, North Carolina? Well there are, I have been to some of them. They have, and continue to provide meals to people that would otherwise go hungry.
It is not that elected officials, town and county management does not know about it. I have talked with many of them, and they do know.
Some will tell you of people living in crawl spaces under homes, in abandoned buildings, in cars, and in the woods.
When I press on this I hear, "Well, you know we are a poor county."
What I do not hear is what is being done about it. I hear about the taxes going up, the closing of businesses, and now the hospital is for sale.
I have heard it said, and I have said, poor people in America, are not really poor. Not compared to the poor in other countries.
The difference being, there are safety nets.
I believed people in this country that really need help could get it.
Well, more and more I see this is not always the case.
I think it is sad that as a community it is acceptable to turn a family's water off, and for no one in leadership to do something about it.
Just how bad is this going to get before people say enough is enough?
As for this family, a few came together and the water bill was paid, a little help for a little while.
This is an up-close and personal story of the real cost of leadership failure.
Franklin County needs jobs.
Is anyone listening?
In 2016 there are four County Commissioner seats up for re-election.