Yesterday we held a homeless summit. We didn’t know what else to call it, so that was the working name. This came as a result of conversations I had with the Superintendent of the local school district about homelessness in our region. We had over two dozen people in attendance representing a variety of agencies and interests – school-related, police, various non-profits, government agencies, social services, etc.
The goal was to agree that we have a problem in our region, that we have been trying to do things on our own, that there is a better way to communicate and coordinate, and to determine some next steps. Or as I put it – this is like a first date where we get to know each other to determine if there will be a second date.
We broke down into smaller groups several times for discussion – to share how we encounter homelessness, poverty, and hunger in our agencies and personally. We spoke of the challenges we face in dealing with homelessness and what roles we each play. And we talked about some possible areas to move forward on.
At the end several of us made commitments on next steps – tangible things that we can do.
Many of the challenges people talked about was communication – not knowing where to send people. There are many agencies and things are shifting often.
We will be gathering again, figuring out how to draw in communities that are on the margins – some of which self-select themselves away from such conversations. In the meantime, there is work to do, information to share, partnerships to continue to forge, people to assist and walk with, and advocacy to be done. All of this came from this summit.
We didn’t solve the world’s problem, or even solve homelessness. And that was not the goal. We moved one step closer yesterday – just a little step, but an important one. It’s something to build on. Awareness was raised, discussion about a real problem took place, some next steps were committed to. That’s a great start as far as I’m concerned. I look forward to seeing how this progresses.
My vision is that there is a real, affordable, home for everyone in this region. A home, not just shelter, not living in motels, not living in cars. A home surrounded by community that cares about one another.