More minds needed to battle homelessness
In many cases, an ongoing community problem is most effectively attacked when multiple groups get involved and address it from a variety of angles. Not only does it get more minds and bodies involved to get the work done, it brings ideas from a multitude of perspectives and hopefully some new suggestions that haven't emerged in the past that actually make a difference.
Fighting the community drug problem comes to mind. The schools and police department team up to reach kids at a young and impressionable age to discourage ever trying drugs while public and mental health departments collaborate with numerous community partners to find ways to reach parents and other community members.
As the Point in Time Count, the annual community homeless count, approaches, this notion of attacking a problem from multiple community angles with the help of many local organizations seems appropriate.
The count will take place during a three-day span next week and involves self-reporting stations throughout the community, as well as an outreach component where volunteers pair up and find as many homeless in Crook County as they can. The intent is to get as accurate of a snapshot of the issue as possible and use that data to secure funding to get people the help they need.
The discouraging reality is that homeless numbers don't appear to be dropping in recent years, and while part of this is a factor of improved methods to locate homeless people, which boosts the numbers, it feels safe to assume that the problem is not in decline.
The question is, what needs fixed? A few years ago, it would be easy to target the recession and 20 percent unemployment as a catalyst, but now that the community and country are in a period of economic growth, that theory doesn't work. Perhaps it is now easier to pin it on the affordable housing shortage. That would make sense, right?
Home prices are reaching a point that entry-level houses are too expensive for first-time homebuyers to afford, and rent is so high that serious talk is under way in the State Legislature to cap it in some fashion.
But that, too, seems like an oversimplification, just like it would be to add more homeless shelters or perhaps focus exclusively on mental health issues, or zero in on drug or alcohol abuse.
The simple answer is that homelessness needs attacked from all of those sides and other ones that might emerge as more organizations get involved.
Perhaps, in the same fashion that Crook County is attacking youth drug and alcohol abuse, the community would benefit from a multi-organization task force. Crook County Empowered — formerly known as Crook County Community Coalition — brings representatives from local government, education, public and mental health agencies, the juvenile department, the chamber of commerce as well as parents and even the media together to focus on a single goal.
Imagine if Crook County leaders did the same with homelessness. That many organizations in a room brainstorming ways to help might spawn some good ideas.
Or maybe the community could take a page from the recent jail and natural resource efforts and form a citizen committee that could take a fresh look at the problem and offer suggestions.
While adding more minds and bodies to the homelessness battle is not a sure-fire way to eradicate the problem, it might help get those numbers down. That alone make it worthwhile to look at some of the blueprints other efforts have created and see if they would work.