Our View: Gov. Gavin Newsom shines spotlight on homelessness in Nevada County | TheUnion.com

Our View: Gov. Gavin Newsom shines spotlight on homelessness in Nevada County

The Union Editorial Board

How do you solve homelessness?

If only we could put people in homes and call it a day.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are many roads that lead to homelessness and stop someone from escaping it. Alcoholism, substance abuse, mental illness, housing costs, job loss, health problems — any one of them can became the first step toward losing a home and ending up on the streets.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s appearance this week in Grass Valley shines a spotlight on our community’s homeless situation, and hopefully sparks real change that leads to fewer people living in the woods and more folks getting the help they need.

Because, let’s face it, we have little success to show for all the money and time this county has put into solving homelessness.

A decade ago our county had 345 homeless people, the county has said. Last year the Homeless Point in Time count revealed 404 homeless people in our community.

This isn’t to say we’ve had no success. Newsom pointedly praised our community for taking a collaborative approach toward fixing this problem.

We have multiple agencies working in tandem toward reducing homelessness and helping those in it. Newsom visited the Spirit Peer Empowerment Center, open to those facing mental health challenges. He spoke to the media at Hospitality House, which over the years has shouldered a significant burden by housing our homeless.

There are many others that deserve recognition — The Salvation Army, the HOME team, Sierra Roots, Divine Spark and our local governments, to name a few. Individuals, groups and governments are joining together on this problem, and the governor acknowledged that in person, in our county. That’s worth underlining with a bright red pen.

But a brief visit by the state’s chief executive doesn’t make our job any easier, and it doesn’t make our inability so far to reduce homelessness disappear.

Newsom — a former mayor of San Francisco, which is notorious for its homelessness issues — is no stranger to this state’s housing problem. He had a front row seat for years on a much smaller scale. He had the chance to solve that city’s issues, and couldn’t.

It’s great that the governor visited, but we’re going to need a lot more to make a dent in this problem.

The issue of homelessness didn’t appear overnight. It’s been growing for decades, with help from the rising cost of housing and lack of affordable places to live.

Just as there are many paths that can lead someone to homelessness, there are several roads that can bring them out of it.

We need our stakeholders on each of those roads, working together to provide the services and support to elevate people out of homelessness and into homes.

We must be effective at these tasks to be successful. The $1.4 billion Newsom wants for state and local efforts to help isn’t enough. We know what happens when you throw money at a problem. If this funding materializes, and Nevada County secures some of it, we must use it wisely.

We need a plan that incorporates affordable housing, along with mental health and substance abuse services. We need knowledgeable professionals to implement them and assure the community the money is spent appropriately.

And we need real benchmarks — as in the number of people living in the woods decreases — that show success when they’re met, and failure when they’re not.

We should be proud Newsom chose Grass Valley as his first stop on his homelessness tour. It served as a great photo op for him, and highlighted what our community has done to combat the issue of homelessness.

But at the end of the day, when the sun sets and people living in the streets grow cold, we need real solutions that help the most vulnerable.

And the flash of a camera won’t bring that.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.

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