Panel addresses homeless issue

Panel addresses homeless issue

The homeless problem: We all wish it would go away.

We all have our opinions about this issue: "It's a lifestyle," "Send them to Medford," "If we offer services, we'll just attract more"; but the fact is there are deserving homeless individuals who are falling through the cracks and this issue is not going to go away.

I am sure many in Ashland don't even know there has been a diligent and extremely hard-working group that has focused on major issues in resolving homeless issues here in Ashland for the past two years. Appointed by the City Council, these volunteers have put in countless hours coming up with rational solutions to this problem. These volunteers are Regina Ayars, Graham Lewis, Pam Marsh (council liaison), Laura O'Bryon, Heidi Parker, Sarah Powell, Rich Rhode, Connie Saldana and Paula Sohl, and the super-competent staff member Linda Reid.

The ad hoc committee has researched successful nonprofits that are making strides in reducing homelessness and providing services this group needs. The committee has made visits to the successful Salvation Army program in Eugene and it is continuing to look for a location (away from downtown) for basic services such as mail drops, phone charging, emergency transportation tokens, case management and mental health assessment, and help (enough said on this last issue).

The committee is responsible for providing additional toilet facilities at the Recycle Center and is on the verge of finding a safe place for women (and some children) who sleep in their cars. Yes, there are women who sleep in their cars in this town!

The committee was involved in supporting Temple Emek Shalom, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, First Presbyterian Church and Trinity Episcopal Church during the winter shelter program. In case you might not think there is a need, there is: Between the four religious institutions that participated in winter shelter, there were a total of 853 individuals who were sheltered overnight for 64 nights.

This problem isn't going to go away, folks. Personally, I feel that more money should be allocated. Maybe we can apply some of the money allocated for the seemingly interminable studies the council seems interested in. Frankly, I think there is a right way and a wrong way and I feel piecemeal panaceas are not the right way to go.

Now that this ad hoc committee is merging with the Housing Committee, it's time to recognize and give thanks to this hard-working group. Please contact your City Council for ideas and support.

Wendy Eppinger