Guest Column

Ensuring the right resources are available for our most vulnerable is a complex issue. We need to be real: we’re not going to fix homelessness tomorrow.

One mistake is that we make talking about homeless residents as if they are one uniform group with the same challenges, the same pressures, the same needs. In fact, based on my former role as Bend City Councilor and the local associations on which I currently serve as a board member, our homeless are a collection of individuals — they are our aging population, those living in poverty, our hard-to-house, our addicted, people with disabilities, those living in domestic violence situations, students — they are individuals with unique needs in different circumstances living across Bend and our region. And to truly help them, we need to meet them and their needs where they are. It is the humane step we, as a community and region, must take.

How do we as a community and region begin?

We need to invest in creating a “by name” list of those who are homeless in our community, in order to build a strategic plan to address their needs.

1. We need a comprehensive review of our (city’s, Deschutes County’s) current approach to ensure no one is being overlooked, that we are differentiating between the needs of the individuals.

In some cases, the need is for 100% wrap-around services or highly targeted resources and specialized agencies. In others, it might mean improving coordination and access to basic services and supplies in their respective locations.

It’s the city’s and county’s responsibility to make sure we are providing, measurable, targeted, and progressive solutions that address their specific needs in the most effective way possible along with added accountability. This may result in taking an even more holistic approach including our neighboring cities and counties – I believe this is solely not our (Bend’s/Deschutes County’s) role but a collaborative role for Central Oregon.

2. We need to look at our approach to funding, because success depends on a collaborator (COIC?) at the helm.

How are we building the shared governance we need with our neighboring regional governments?

How are we bringing the range of agencies and service providers together with city administration, councils and county commissioners to find the right solutions?

Do we have the right mix of funding going to the social service providers who are leveraging their collective strengths to provide the very best outcomes for our residents? Is it sustainable?

We need to work collaboratively with our state representatives on legislation and to ensure funding is sustainable on the capital and operating side of a project(s).

We need our community and regional leaders committed to seeking sustainable funding via a shared governance model and criteria that includes a data-driven funding model which rewards good outcomes.

That means incentivizing productive partnerships, agencies and organizations that come together to find efficient and effective solutions and demonstrate that they are capitalizing on each other’s strengths rather than competing with one another.

It means doing the due diligence to ensure our taxpayer dollars aren’t going to agencies that aren’t achieving positive outcomes for these residents in need.

By establishing a solution and outcome-oriented approach, we will maximize our investment and better provide for our most vulnerable residents.

3. Our communities must be safe. We need to engage our agencies, our community leaders, emergency services and our community organizations to build an outcome-driven approach that keeps our residents safe.

It’s my recommendation that our elected officials, service organizations and members of our community, look at ways to mobilize social service units so the right service providers are going to where the problems exist.

With empathy and determination, we can tackle the root causes and the symptoms that affect our homeless crisis.

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Chris Piper is a former Bend city councilor.

(2) comments

Lisabee

It’s such a shame that we don’t have common sense voices like Chris Piper running our city.

Skittish

I began reading this with the assumption it was written by a typical do-gooder, all show and no go. But as I read it, began to realize, the writer was trying to be balanced, logical and realistic. Then I read who the writer was and learned this was one of the councilors voted out, adding evidence to my belief that the current council is indeed not likely to be constituted by individuals capable of the critical thinking necessary to address the homeless issue. My concern is their solution is to spend as much money as possible and somehow, someway, things will get better, because someone else's money is always the solution. Someone else's money is the goose that lays golden eggs.

We will never "end homelessness": it is an end result with many pathways.

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