Our View: It’s past time to stop talking and take action on warming shelters
March 2, 2018
Homelessness isn't a problem we're going to solve in these pages.
Warming shelters, however, are a different beast entirely.
You'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't think homelessness is a significant issue that our community must address. We have and will, likely for years to come.
It's a complicated problem, and one that comes with many moving parts and no simple solutions.
But for a moment let's focus on something we can fix. Our community has a need for warming shelters. It's known by our elected officials and respective nonprofit leaders. The necessary ingredients for fixing the problem exist right here.
We just need the will to make it happen.
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We can argue about the merits of providing services like warming shelters and whether they draw people here who otherwise would stay somewhere else. What we should do first is ensure no one dies in our community because they have no warm place to go.
So let's get to it.
We don't need big government to swoop in with a solution. In this case government needs to be a partner, a facilitator, and let the nonprofits and churches take the lead.
Groups like Hospitality House and Sierra Roots do great work in our community. The former always pushes for more beds in the colder months while the latter works toward warming shelters on our coldest nights.
These organizations, and many more in our community, are the ones that must take point on the task of opening and maintaining warming shelters. The county and cities can help with providing the necessary space and being an essential partner is achieving this goal, but barring a societal shift, it's not the government's job. The government isn't the best equipped to handle this problem. It's not built to be all things to all people.
And honestly, don't we want the people and groups who have a deep drive to provide these services to take the lead?
Warming shelters won't solve homelessness or the causes that create it. Mental illness and drug addiction are problems with deep roots, as are economic difficulties and domestic violence. Any and all of these can push someone from a warm home into the cold.
Let's not allow the bigger issues to crowd out the task at hand. This community will address the underlying causes of homelessness for years. We should make sure these warming shelters are open now.
After a few stumbles earlier this week it appears we're on track. A warming shelter opened Wednesday through Friday in Nevada City.
Maybe we won't need another for the rest of the season, but we will need one at some point.
Let's act on that now instead of waiting for the next snow storm, which we know will come. Get the right people at the table, make the plans, know who makes the phone calls when the time arrives.
We have everything we need to meet this need. When push comes to shove, there's no excuse for anyone getting left in the cold.
The weekly Our View column 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.