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Battling local poverty problem requires some new ideas

As the calendar flips into November and December and frigid overnight temperatures become more commonplace, the thoughts of many local leaders turn to poverty and homelessness.

Such concerns are only compounded by the upcoming holidays, which encourage us to give thanks and give back to those less fortunate.

Recent data and commentary from some community members suggest that Crook County’s homeless problem is stagnant, if not worsening, despite the modestly improving economy. The community has made attempts to respond in the form of a small homeless shelter built near the Crook County Sheriff’s Office and more recently with a new and inviting women’s Redemption House shelter in the basement of Prineville’s Church of the Nazarene. Pacific Crest Affordable Housing also announced plans to build a two-building low-income housing facility for senior citizens.

The laudable efforts are great to see and demonstrate that community leaders are trying to address poverty issues. Each of the previously mentioned projects required people and entities to give something up. City and county officials initially agreed to donate resources to the first homeless shelter while the Church of the Nazarene provided the space for a women’s shelter. The City of Prineville had to approve a 20-year property tax exemption to move the senior housing project forward.

This is what it will take to make a dent in the homeless problem. We also need local leaders to think outside the box and consider new ideas. Crook County School District’s homeless liaison recently stressed to Prineville city councilors that the community lacks adequate shelter for the homeless compared to other communities. Might the soon-to-be vacated schools provide room for an additional shelter? Perhaps not, but the idea has yet to be publicly raised. Are there other vacated buildings to consider?

Another issue often raised is affordable housing. Could local government officials work together to grease the wheels for low-income housing developments. There must be some developers, like Pacific Crest Affordable Housing, that would like to meet what appears to be a clear demand.

Right now, the remedies for poverty and homelessness are not contained in a silver bullet answer. Sadly, the reality is that no community can eradicate such problems completely. However, there are ideas worth exploring. Maybe they don’t work, but at least the idea was explored. Community leaders are off to a good start. They need to take it to the next level.

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