On Wednesday, some 150 people turned out for a town hall meeting in Crescent City to address a recent federal court ruling, which concludes that if no other options are available for people who are homeless, they can not be barred from sleeping on public land.
The silver lining in this is that as homelessness becomes more visible, criminalizing the act of not having shelter is no longer an option. Communities around the country are being pushed to come up with answers to this growing crisis.
We applaud the Crescent City Police Department and the Del Norte County Sheriff for their reasoned approach to protecting both public safety and the civil rights of all people, regardless of whether they are housed or not.
We also applaud the people of our community who are clearly seeking compassionate, practical and sustainable solutions to this difficult problem that impacts all of us.
We continue to encourage our elected and other community leaders to participate in the community-wide collaborative stakeholder group as described in the two resolutions that were unanimously passed this year by the Crescent City City Council and Del Norte County Board of Supervisors.
Those resolutions were guided by the premise that we seek to move from managing homelessness to ending homelessness in Del Norte County.
They are also guided by the belief that all people have intrinsic human dignity and worth.
We believe that to do so we must create a community-wide partnership that designs and implements sustainable solutions to homelessness.
These include immediate efforts needed to protect public safety and public health, as well as spending already stretched resources in cost effective ways that actually solve problems while setting the stage for positive progress in the effort to end homelessness in our community.
This won’t be easy and it will take all of us working together to achieve it.
Invitations to the first meeting of the Del Norte Coalition for Ending Homelessness have been sent to elected and community leaders representing a broad range of stakeholders. A number of them have already replied and voiced their support for this effort. Our goal is to have this meeting take place in the first two weeks of December.
As was said at the recent town hall meeting: “There’s doing the thing right, and there’s doing the right thing.”
We have an opportunity to do both when it comes to addressing this pressing community issue.
Mike Thornton is lead organizer for True North Organizing Network.