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Cairo woman puts face on homelessness

January 9, 2019 12:47 am

A 32-year-old woman posing as a homeless 15-year-old student to enroll at Cairo-Durham High School last week might suggest to some wags the plot of the movie “Never Been Kissed,” a romantic comedy (based on a true story) starring Drew Barrymore as a grown-up journalist who pretends to be a teenager so she can returns to high school to get a story.

But there is nothing funny or romantic about the case of Michaelann Goodrich, of Cairo. Goodrich actually made it into Cairo-Durham on Dec. 19 and, registering under the alias Riley Madison, took classes for a day. The Greene County Sheriff’s Office arrested Goodrich three days after Christmas and charged her with two felonies and a misdemeanor.

Because Goodrich identified herself as a homeless student, the Cairo-Durham Central School District was required by law to follow special procedures related to federal aid to combat homelessness. Durham Town Court granted Goodrich a supervised release last Thursday and ordered to return to court Jan. 14. The Greene County Sheriff’s Office is continuing its investigation.

The homeless population in the Hudson Valley is climbing, according to new data from 2017 supplied by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The disturbing statistics show increases in all of the counties throughout the region. For example, there were an estimated 388 homeless people living in Dutchess County in 2017, up from 385 in 2016 and 375 in 2015.

The homeless are seldom visible in small, rural communities, but they are there. Michaelann Goodrich made herself visible in an unusual story that made global headlines. It remains unclear whether Goodrich’s actions stemmed from mental illness or sheer desperation, or a little of both. One thing is certain, though. Michaelann Goodrich put a face and a name to homelessness in the Twin Counties. The least we can do is pay attention to a serious problem. If we choose to look the other way, we do so at our own peril.