By Donna Westfall – July 26, 2018 – Homelessness is neither new nor inevitable. We’ve always had homeless in our society. There’s been a cycle that began in the 1980’s while the previous period was during the great depression.
Current figures put the growing population of homeless in Del Norte County at over 500, of which about 200 are children. I think the overall figures are low. The newest segment of homeless are now seniors.
It doesn’t happen overnight. Usually there’s couch surfing, living in one’s car, or finding abandoned buildings. You can see them around WalMart and at traffic signals. Because so many of our people live paycheck to paycheck, it doesn’t take much of an emergency such as illness or accident, divorce or addiction to suddenly put them out on the street.
Have other communities found solutions? Yes, they have. Mostly by having the community come together; law enforcement, churches, hospitals, mental health and more.
Housing first. If people have housing, then their life can become more stable. In one Canadian community, social workers are employed by the libraries so they were more accessible to the homeless. As we’ve seen, government is not the solution to our local homeless problems but it can assist in solving the problem. With poverty a staple of our community, it’s no wonder we have so many homeless. But, if we can create housing for our homeless, stabilize them, work on their addictions and mental health problems, we can look forward to the day when they are, once again, productive members of society.
During the month of August, True North Organizing Network will be making a 15 minute presentation to the City Council and then the Board of Supervisors. Their goal, bring awareness to the issue so that these boards will make it a priority. Then, there’s a greater chance that the public and private sectors can work together to solve this growing problem.