A great concern of residents in our district is homelessness—so many more people so destitute. How did this happen? What has caused it? Why is it getting worse? What can be done to alleviate the pain of homelessness? Who’s going to “solve the problem of homelessness”? Who’s responsible to do it? Do we look to the entity with the most money and power to effect change? That would be our government, right? But do we really believe that government will provide an effective solution? Historically, government’s track record in solving social issues ranks low. Then why give government more money and power if it will not or cannot solve this homeless crisis?
The only people who are really going to bring solutions to this issue are people who have the will and the sense to solve it—ordinary people like you and me--and maybe the homeless themselves.
Here’s one fine example. Perhaps you have heard of Alan Evans, the CEO of the very successful, non-profit Helping Hands Re-entry Outreach Center, who works with homeless people. For twenty-seven years he himself was homeless—until a police officer's personal interest in him changed Mr. Evans’ life. Today Mr. Evans helps other homeless people become welcomed members in our communities—with eleven shelters around Oregon, his latest being the Bybee Lakes Hope Center, which utilizes the Wapato Jail space. (For more on the story about Alan Evans see https://www.opb.org/news/article/wapato-jail-multnomah-county-oregon-homeless-shelter-alan-evans/)
Interestingly, Helping Hands has so far refused to take any government funds. Why? Mr Evans explains: because government attaches strings to its funds that force people into programs and models that don’t work. Helping Hands is “person-centered,” recognizing individual homeless persons as unique individuals--each with his own story and unique needs that may require unique resources. Government does not usually provide that kind of flexible, individual, person-centered focus.
However, government can play a role to help solve the homelessness crisis. For starters, maybe government leaders can be more open-minded to creative ideas that are different from their own, relax zoning restrictions, reduce red tape and regulations, and increase the individual charitable deduction so that ordinary people, rather than governments, make the decisions about which organizations they choose to support to meet the social needs of their communities. (See also “The Pursuit of Happiness” in the RIGHTS section of this website.)