Michael McDonald: Learn more about our homeless population before making assumptions | TheUnion.com

Michael McDonald: Learn more about our homeless population before making assumptions

Like many societal challenges, homelessness is a complex problem and Ehud Gat identified some of the issues in his Feb. 9 guest column.

I wanted to address a couple of Mr. Gat’s arguments. First, he states, “In fact, if we learn anything from the presence of Hospitality House in Grass Valley, it is that if you build it, they will come. That is to say the more services and freebies we offer, the larger the homeless population becomes and the more problematic it becomes.”

According to the 2017 Point-In-Time homeless count conducted by the County of Nevada, 22 percent of homeless people have lived in Nevada County their whole lives; 38 percent five years or more; 16 percent one to 5 years; 10 percent between six months and one year; and 14 percent less than six months. People do not typically come to Nevada County because of our community resources, but rather for work.

In addition, the Nevada County’s Point-In-Time homeless count for 2016 was 437, in 2017 it was 371 and many believe that the homeless count conducted January 2018 will be lower still. Hospitality House alone has placed over 400 people into homes over the last few years. While not everyone maintains permanent housing, the Hospitality House and county housing programs provide a positive impact for those individuals, families and our community.

Second, Mr. Gat states that, “We attract the worst of the homeless from other communities.” This type of argument has been used not only by our current president against immigrants, but also against nonprofit organizations helping people of color, the poor and the homeless. However, the facts on the ground do not support these allegations. Hospitality House always screens for people who have roots here in Nevada County and does not serve people who do not have ties to Nevada County, except in rare cases of vulnerability.

I agree with Mr. Gat, that people coming from homelessness into housing need wraparound services in order to be successful. Hospitality House, other nonprofits, the County of Nevada, Grass Valley City and Nevada City leadership prioritize these wraparound support services as well and are working hard to address our local affordable housing crisis.

Mr. Gat, it sounds like you have a lot of experience with the homeless, and I invite you and anyone locally to tour Hospitality House Community Shelter at 1 p.m. Thursday, March 13, to learn more about how the program actually works.

As a community, we continue to strive for inclusiveness and acceptance, which by our fallen nature is challenging, as we instinctually turn inward. But as we resist that impulse, we come together and do the good work of, “being my brother’s keeper,” creating a vibrant and thriving place to for all to live — not just for those deemed worthy.

Michael McDonald is a board member for Hospitality House.

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