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Everybody wants something different out of improving the situation of homelessness … which makes the challenge really great because everybody is solving a different problem .
Julie Hirota CEO , Saint John ’ s Program for Real Change a lack of clear goals makes solving the crisis more difficult . “ Everybody wants something different out of improving the situation of homelessness ,” she says . “ If you ’ re a homeowner , you have one perspective . If you ’ re a business owner , you may have another perspective . A city , county person — you may have another . So the definition about what we are trying to do , I think , is very unclear . Everybody has a different definition , which makes the challenge really great because everybody is solving a different problem .”
“ There is no one-size-fits-all solution to homelessness because individuals are unique and the causes of homelessness are many ,” says Amani Sawires , vice president and COO of Volunteers of America Northern California and Northern Nevada . She says VOA , a faith-based nonprofit , provides over 2,700 individuals in the Sacramento region with emergency shelter , supportive housing and affordable housing every night . It also provides 1,600 meals a day to those without housing or who are living in emergency shelters .
“ VOA cannot do the work we do without local and state partnerships for funding ,” Sawires says , adding that VOA ’ s partnerships with private organizations to deliver services and the support of individual donors work to increase the impact it can have on the community beyond what it contracts with local governments to do . “ However , because of the size and scope of government agencies , they can ’ t spend time developing relationships and making linkages as effectively .”
Sawires agrees with Hirota that finding solutions is more than simply about housing and says VOA ’ s approach is to treat the homeless people they serve with love , dignity and without judgment . “ Those who are struggling with homelessness are overwhelmed , have been traumatized , and for many , they have an immense sense of shame and hopelessness ,” she says . “ Without a menu of affordable housing options and intensive case management to continually work on the barriers to remaining housed , it will be difficult to find a solution that sticks .”
The Yolo Food Bank distributes food to about 80 nonprofit partners , including several homeless service providers . “ Almost every homeless individual in the county is receiving either direct or indirect food assistance through the Yolo Food Bank ,” Executive Director Michael Bisch says . He adds that although the homeless make up only “ one or two percent of the people that we serve ,” the remainder are people the food bank is desperately trying to help keep off the street .
“ While they are sheltered , typically many of them are housing insecure because they ’ re in financially stressed circumstances ,” Bisch says . “ When we can provide two , three , five hundred dollars worth of groceries to them every month , that then frees up their precious financial resources to pay rent , pay for childcare , pay for transportation . The more we can reduce their monthly cost of living , the likelier it is that they ’ ll be able to keep their homes .”
Ken Smith is a freelance writer , public relations consultant and video producer who is also managing editor of Sierra Sacramento Valley Medicine magazine . More at kdscommunications . com .
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