On April 18th, state Sen. Mike McGuire and local officials will be holding a town hall meeting on addressing short and long(er) term solutions to homelessness in our community. This provides us with an opportunity to move boldly forward on addressing this incredibly difficult and multifaceted issue. One that threatens the health and lives of hundreds of our houseless neighbors and affects all aspects of our community and economy.
We have Our Daily Bread and other dedicated organizations, as well as individuals, who have been toiling valiantly to do what they can to provide shelter and assistance to some 350 adults who are without shelter and as many as 200 students who are also without stable housing. If these efforts are organized into a cohesive community strategy and genuinely supported, they can be more effective in addressing what we all seem to agree is truly an immediate crisis.
My hope for this upcoming town hall is that we come out of it with a commitment to some basic principles:
(1) Doing nothing (or the bare minimum) out of some misguided notion that this will cause our houseless brothers and sisters to leave or prevent some mythical horde of homeless people migrating to Del Norte County is misguided and isn’t going to work.
(2) Elected and appointed officials need to work together and with community and business leaders in order to have long term success.
(3) For any of these efforts to be successful, the people closest to the pain must be part of designing the solutions. (4) Political grandstanding and the politics of grievance not only don’t help but further divide people who desperately need to be unified to tackle, not only homelessness but a whole host of critical issues facing this community.
(5) We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Many communities are engaging in efforts that could work in Del Norte. We should learn from their successes and failures to implement solutions that have a high(er) degree of success from the start.
I understand that trying to deal with homelessness and the many difficult issues that are part of it is hard and can be incredibly frustrating. Especially while at the same time trying to do all the other things that the community needs and that various constituents want.
It seems like there’s a real opportunity to move forward at this moment in time. I sincerely hope that as a community we’ll be bold enough to take it.
Mike Thornton lives in Crescent City.