Wednesday, August 12, 2015

SRT Newsletter Issues: Homelessness

Engaging our City to Address the Needs of the Homeless

Recently, SRT successfully advocated that the city establish a community dialogue on responding to homelessness as part of it’s approach to the affordable housing crisis we are experiencing.  We’d like to further explain our case for this approach.

1) This would not be just “Another Taskforce”
Addressing the needs of homeless people will not be accomplished by better coordination among and funding for our governments and not-for-profit organizations. We have all learned this lesson many times over in our work to address complex issues like preventing crime, improving education, and addressing environmental challenges.  Our governments and not-for-profits can do great work, but they, by themselves, do not have the resources or ability to address these issues.  We know that it takes a community-wide effort that can engage a broad number of our community members at all levels to make real progress on any of our complex challenges.  We need the resources and ideas of our community members at all levels to address the needs of the homeless.  Just as importantly, we need to find common ground and develop a common plan to address this issue so that we are all working together.

We don’t need another taskforce, we need a new process that can engage our community and provide an opportunity for everyone to contribute to the planning and work to address this issue.  We need a process that brings the expertise of our governments and not-for-profits together with the ideas and resources of our community and its many organizations to succeed.

2)   Broad engagement sounds like too much work. Is it worth it?
We have the opportunity to create a broad and effective community wide effort to address the needs of the homeless –an effort that could finally begin to address this issue in significant ways.  In addition, creating a process that brings everyone together, this effort will give us all a chance to get to know each other and learn how to work together more effectively.  This will be a major step forward for our city, increase our ability to address all of our future challenges, and begin to shape the kind of democracy we need to create a great city. 

3)  What would the process of truly engaging our community look like?
Let’s take a close look at an outline for this process, so that we all understand both the time and resources that would be required as well as the potential of that this kind of effort would have.  This outline is based on successful experiences in other cities that have worked to engage their communities.
·       To engage more of our community members and leaders, take this conversation out to the community by forming small groups for facilitated conversations.  Hold these conversations in our neighborhoods, organizations, churches, and schools to give a large number of community members a chance to have a voice and be part of the solution
·       Let’s set a target of at least 50 small group discussions
·       Let’s prepare well so that these discussions have the best chance to succeed:
·       Train facilitators for each of these discussions to ensure that everyone has a voice and to encourage listening and learning from each other,
·       Provide these small groups with the information they need for an informed discussion by forming a group (students, homeless leaders, homeless staff, interested community members, journalists) to produce discussion materials that frame the question, provide information on the homeless and current efforts to address their needs, and known options and costs for addressing the issue from best practices around the world.  Work with the Press Democrat to print and make these materials widely available.
·       Small groups will meet and discuss these materials and their own experiences and work together to find solutions
·       Ideas from small groups will be circulated on city web site and in PD
·       Representatives from all the small groups will convene in a city wide meeting to discuss and work towards a common plan for a community wide effort to meet the needs of the homeless.  Recommendations for City and County action will be presented to Council and the Board of Supervisors for consideration.  An organization, if necessary, will be established to implement the plan.

Let us know if you are interested in hosting or attending a neighborhood meeting on homelessness!  Contact us at:

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