Chipping away at the homelessness situation in Eugene by Pat Farr

The Opportunity Eugene Task Force Planning Team of 17 met for two hours on January 19 to establish the desired outcomes of the Task Force.  The full Task Force of around 50 members will meet perhaps four times to develop recommendation to the City Council for addressing the needs and impact for the unhoused in the community.  These are unusually large groups of a size that rarely can accomplish much in a short time.  But with this group I am optimistic that tangible results can be achieved.

(“Unhoused” is the term that has replaced “homeless” in the vocabulary of the working group.)

The draft Desired Outcomes have been determined by the group for presentation to the entire task force at a meeting starting at 9 am on January 24 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

It is agreed that an established infrastructure of services to serve the homeless exists in Eugene.  The Task Force seeks to build upon existing services in creative and innovative ways.  This is my reason for optimism:  not trying to reinvent the wheel, but perhaps putting a new tire on it.

One such way, I hope, will be to provide readily available information about what services exist for the homeless and facilitate ways for those who need to access the services can locate them and use them.  Many people who are experiencing homelessness could have barriers removed by accessing services that currently exist.

Jim Davidson, a task force and planning team member made a statement that rings true with many people, “I am willing to drive them (homeless individuals) to a place they can get help.”  Such volunteers are available and willing to help if they know how it can be done.

Craig Smith, another member of both groups, stated, “There are easy connections that can be made…” Once again suggesting that for some people just knowing where and how to access services that already exist could help tremendously.

For some, their obstacles include things that many of us take for granted:  valid identification or a birth certificate.  For others it may be a place to shower and store their belongings while they look for work.  A central locus for accessing the information could help many who need help but don’t know how or where it is available would demystify what already is being done.

Obviously not all situations are a simple fix, but by providing access to simple fixes we could make larger chronic issues more clear to see and understand and begin to address longer-term needs.

After this task force has finished its work and made its report to City Council it will be necessary for a smaller and more focused committee, such as the Council Committee on Homelessness and Youth was, to meet on a longer term basis to achieve longer term solutions.

Click here to see historic and ongoing efforts surrounding homelessness in Eugene.


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