Despite an outpouring of love and respect from the community – including a proper funeral and burial – I remain preoccupied by the heartbreaking story of the woman known only as the “Bridge Lady”.
She was a tiny, homeless person who lived in Morehead for about 10 years, all of that time under a highway bridge.
All indications are that she died from natural causes. Also unknown are her correct name, birthdate, birth place, and other personal history.
Under Kentucky law, she is referred to as “Jane Doe.” That could be the name engraved on her grave marker.
No one knows how she survived sub-zero weather in the winter and 100-degree temperatures in the summer while living under a concrete structure with cardboard her only protection.
Or how she survived on a diet of discarded food from a grocery store dumpster.
The “Bridge Lady” was not this area’s first experience with homeless persons who – for a variety of reasons – choose not to go to local homeless shelters.
Homeless Kentuckians sleep in a myriad of places, most of which you wouldn’t use to house any creature.
The term, “brother’s keeper,” of course, comes from the Bible story of Cain and Abel. After Cain had murdered his brother Abel, God asked him where his brother was. Cain answered, “I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Hence, that expression has come to symbolize people’s unwillingness to accept responsibility for the welfare of their fellow human beings.
If we are Christian or Jewish, our traditions clearly say we have such responsibility.
Dealing with the homeless has been in the news lately because of Lexington’s controversial decision to remove homeless camps in bitterly cold weather. Homelessness exists in cities and towns and small rural communities. However, it seems no governmental or religious agency has a realistic plan to deal with those who choose to sleep outdoors. What worries me the most about the “Bridge Lady” story is how do we keep this from happening to other persons, especially in small towns like ours?
If America truly is the land of plenty, why must we have so many homeless folks living at risk of violence, disease and death?
Keith Kappes can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 356-0912.