Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Homeless

Recently, people protesting on the Plaza have drawn attention to the impacts of enforcing the city’s ban on camping on public property.

On December 7, more than 20 people spoke to the City Council and many of them asked the Council to suspend enforcement on the camping ordinance.

Previous City Council’s have grappled with the same issue over the years. The current ban is just two years old, and the issues debated then are the same as those being debated today. Everyone needs a safe place to sleep, but camping in parks and sidewalks may not be the safest or the most sanitary. At the request of Councilor Navickas, the City Council will discuss the possibility of suspending enforcement of the camping ordinance at their meeting on December 21, 2010.

People who camp are the most visible face of homelessness. Homelessness shows up in many ways: some people live in their cars, others borrow the couches of friends, some sleep in shelters, and some people live on the street. People become homeless for many reasons: from losing a job, experiencing domestic violence, having a mental illness, or losing their housing or dozens of other reasons.

In February of this year, the City Council set a goal to address homelessness. The City Council will begin their work on this goal at a study session on January 31, 2011.

Jackson County and Ashland have many organizations and people who have worked on this issue. The County’s 10-year plan to end homelessness was recently adopted and we will draw on many of the same government entities, non-profits, social services, the faith community and local citizens who worked on this plan.

In addition, we know the loss of ICCA was a blow to dealing with the direct needs of homeless people, and we hope that non-profits and the faith community will want to replace those services.

In no community has any one sector “solved” homelessness. Neither government, nor non-profits, nor churches, nor people working alone have the solution to homelessness. The City can convene, but not own, the problem of safe and secure housing for all citizens. I hope a broad spectrum of citizens and organizations will help us as the Council begins their work in late January.

Sincerely,

Martha Bennett

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