Friday, February 28, 2020
COUNTING THE UNSHELTERED AMONG US
…there is no singular, simple solution;
but the solutions that exist involve all of us…
Forgetting, somehow, that the figure “5:30” could be followed by the letters “AM,” the Church of the Open Road participated this day – well, this dawn – in the Northern Sonoma County “Point in Time” count of unsheltered homeless folks. This bi-annual census, mandated by HUD, gathers raw data that will be used when allocating funds to municipalities, counties and area non-profits. Guided by Chuck, a homeless individual who lost his apartment when rent was ratcheted up after our local fires, we visited both camps (where folks are residing) and sites (where folks have been but are now vacated.)
Four teams scoured our little town; each responsible for one of the town’s four voting precincts. While, in our precinct, we were able to account for only four individuals, Chuck tells me that there are probably 40 to 50 living in our zip code. That doesn’t include those couch surfing or staying in shelters. Nor does it include minors living with non-parental relatives or family friends.
“Reach for Home,” an advocacy group out of Healdsburg facilitated today’s count matching volunteers, such as myself, with unhoused guides like Chuck. The folks I met proved to be generous, funny, knowledgeable (Chuck identified both rock samples and plants as we hiked along the Russian River for a mile or so) resourceful and tough. They share concern for one-another, and they embrace those new to being out of the fold. They graciously accept the help offered from those of us who, many times, are not in their circumstance only by the so-called Grace of God.
The causes of homelessness are many and varied. Folks on the street are not all on drugs, are not all criminal, are not all mentally challenged, and are not simply ne’er-do-wells. Although the homeless population contains elements of each, mainly these are people who benefit from a hand up and are not asking for a handout. There is no singular or simple solution; rather, the solution, the answer(s), the "fix," will involve all of us.
Church of the Open Road Press