To help the homeless, it takes a village

In the more than eight years I’ve lived in Southwest Riverside County, the one thing I don’t doubt about this area is that the people here want to help others who have fallen on hard times.

People always come out to city council meetings when there’s a new policy or ordinance enacted regarding homelessness, because they care and want to see the problem get fixed.

Homelessness is a complicated issue and I don’t think it’s going to be solved by the actions of an individual, but rather a team of people working together and embracing the same principles.

I think we’re starting to see that happen in a couple of notable ways.

In my Nov. 24 article, “Community forum looks at comprehensive approach to homelessness” I talk about a recent meeting at the Old Town Temecula Community Theater where members of the faith community, city officials and law enforcement gathered together to talk about what they’re doing to try to help those who are hurting and what other folks can do as well.

Temecula’s homeless outreach liaison talked about how the effort to help the homeless is not just Temecula-specific, but is truly regional at this point, with six Southwest Riverside County cities meeting regularly and working under the policy of “Responsible Compassion,” a policy that’s that’s about finding ways to help the homeless reach self-sufficiency.

Some aspects of the policy might be difficult for people. It encourages the community not to give food or money to panhandlers because those things could be traded for drugs or alcohol. It also emphasizes building relationships with the homeless and trying to get them connected with services that will help them support themselves.

It’s hard to tell someone no. I get it. Still, I think people in our community should adhere to the Responsible Compassion philosophy for two reasons.

One is that we shouldn’t be sending a mixed message to the community’s homeless about how

we want to help them; we should be operating in a united front. The other is that this policy and this effort to focus more on building relationships with the homeless is actually helping some people.

Law enforcement officials at the panel meeting said homeless numbers in the area appear to be going down and could continue to go down through the work of organizations that are receiving and helping these individuals.

My hope is that’s going to continue to happen with a new organization in the fray. That organization, City Net, asked for people to step up during the meeting and apply to be volunteer case managers and mentors.

Those volunteers will be talking to the homeless, figuring out their needs, and finding ways to help them with very complex problems; it seems to me that that’s in line with the Responsible Compassion policy the city, and the region, embraces.

Homelessness isn’t easy, but that’s because people aren’t easy.

Maybe that’s why this all hands at the wheel approach among cities, law enforcement and community organizations is so important: It creates a support system of concerned people who want to figure out the causes of a person’s homelessness and in the end maybe that’s better than giving a person a sandwich.

But hey, that’s just my opinion.


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