Another long day is coming to a close, the sun is setting, and soon you will find comfort in the safety of your home.You will enjoy a warm nutritious meal alone, or perhaps with loved ones. Later, you will wash away your troubles in a hot shower and will emerge feeling refreshed and new. The day will end as you rest your weary head on a soft pillow and you fall fast asleep.
Sadly, there are many who are alone, trying to survive at night on these Louisiana streets with no food except what can be salvaged from trashcans. There is no place for them to find rest and relaxation, or to even get cleaned. They endure harsh, judgmental looks, or worse, looks of fright. Some people pass them by without even being aware of their presence, leaving these men feeling dehumanized and unworthy.
These men are as young as eighteen, and shockingly, as old as eighty. They are veterans, sons, fathers, grandfathers. They are neighbors, friends, and loved ones.Unfortunately, they have severed the lines of communication with those they were once close to and are completely separated from their families. These men are in dire need of help. They are at a critical point.
Fortunately, there is a place that some of these men can go to for help and assistance in becoming self-sufficient. The place is the Opelousas Lighthouse Mission. While the Mission can comfortably sleep only twenty-three men at a time, no one is turned away. Here the men receive clothing, food, a place to sleep, a means of cleaning up, counseling, personal development classes, job referrals and employment assistance. They are given training in budgeting and money management, job interview skills, resume writing, personal hygiene, and public appropriateness, all of which are vital to breaking the cycle of homelessness.
At this time of year we need your help. Many of our financial resources are exhausted, yet the need for services seems to increase. You can help us continue to help homeless men by your financial support.
I invite you to visit the Mission and to see what is happening here. The Board of Directors and I have been working to improve the building as well as the program.
Interview with Veteran Police Officer Tony Ryan
“It only lasted 17 minutes.” Tony Ryan says, explaining the horrifying tragedy that happened at Columbine High School 11 years ago this April. “When I got the call that Jefferson County [where Columbine is] needed backup I grabbed a few of my sergeants and hit the door, some of which were parents of kids at the high school.” Ryan admits that by the time they got their the actual shooting had ceased, whether or not it was because of their presence is still unknown. “After a sweep of the outside perimeter I sent some sergeants around back and called in more ambulances.” Ryan recalls. “The shooters took shots at us from the second story window, so I ordered my men to return fire with their R15s. We didn’t get them, but they committed suicide shortly after that.” Ryan said he believes in the possibility that the shooters did themselves in out of fear of being arrested or shot by police.
Ryan, the lead officer at the Columbine shooting, is now retired after 36 years of service to the Denver Police Department. During that period, he endured quite a bit to uphold the thin blue line, including getting his foot parked on, head split open, shot in the chest and more. “Danger is the name of the game.” Says Ryan “It’s like any other hazardous job, you can avoid injuries if you take the proper precautions, but hazards come with the territory.” Despite Ryan’s countless hospital visits he has evaded more devastating injuries with quick reactions.
For his dedicated services Ryan has been awarded the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, life saving awards and community service awards. He continually works as a supervisor for various community service events in Denver, including youth outreach and collecting donations for less privileged children. “The local community is an important part of any society.” Says Ryan, who goes on to speculate how the lack of a sense of community in modern youth may be a trigger for violence. “Kids don’t get out there and socialize like they used to.” He explains how many children are raised in seclusion by TV, movies or video games.
“As a lieutenant, I have to say the most important thing with police is communicated.” Says Ryan as he recalls a domestic violence incident from back in the day. “Once this woman called 911 from a pay phone saying that her husband chased her out of her house with a rifle. We met her on the corner and get some information from her, that her husband had been drinking and had plenty of ammunition for the gun, then we go down to the house with SWAT. She said it was the third house on the street, and we get there and the lights are all off. Thinking maybe this guy had left or fallen asleep we had the dispatcher phone the house and the husband tells her that we would never take him alive. Well, she pulls up the address and it turns out to be the wrong house! The one we wanted was three houses down from the other side of the street, with all the lights on and the door open. We almost entered the wrong one!” Ryan laughs, then again emphasizes the importance of communication in police work. “But we resolved that situation.” He adds, mentioning that domestic violence is a policeman’s least favorite situation to walk into since emotions run high and people are often unpredictable.
Ryan was first introduced to law enforcement by the father of a girl he dated years ago after the help of a family lawyer in Singapore. While initially leaning towards a career in speech therapy, he experienced a bit of what it was like to be an officer of the law and soon developed an affinity to it. “My last job before joining the police academy was a bank teller. I hated it, but I would always chat with the off duty police at the bank. They always had something interesting to say.” Says Ryan who received an Outstanding Recruit award in the academy. “Back then we didn’t have bullet proof vests or any of that fancy stuff.” Ryan notes, observing the advent of modern police enforcement technology over the years.
A hot topic in recent news is police criminality and inability to follow proper procedures. Police all over America are being scrutinized and audited by the federal government to ensure their authority doesn’t evolve into abuse. “Like any organization, the police is bound to have a few bad apples.” Admits Ryan, who believes the solution is in finding and terminating abusive officers. “They [police] just need to do their job, but it’s also important for citizens to understand what that means.” Ryan promotes ride alongs, where citizens can get an objective view of the law from a policeman’s eyes.
A member of the board of directors for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Ryan supports what is being done in prisons across the nation to minimize the incarceration population by releasing low risk inmates and therefore limit state spending on prisons. “Non violent drug offenders over crowd our prisons. These people are serving years in jail because they were caught with something like a little marijuana.” Ryan explains the view of LEAP. “Similar to alcohol prohibition, the War on Drugs only breeds crime, doing more harm than good. Not only that but it’s a huge siphon for federal money.” Tony Ryan spends most of his spare time with politics, hoping to reform better communities across the nation.