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Our View: Let’s come together to help homeless

Our View
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Sometimes there’s nothing easier to do than compare your struggles to another’s and think about how they don’t know what hard work is. Those who are homeless can be targets of that mindset. When you catch a quick glimpse of a disheveled looking man or woman, perhaps carrying a stuffed grocery bag or ratty backpack, the judgments can start to flow. How does someone let it get to the point where they lose everything? And then, for some, resentment follows at the idea of trying to help someone when we’re struggling to make ends meet ourselves in a yet-to-recover economy. There is never an easy answer to any social problem, but to ignore it, resent it or try and simply get rid of it is not a long-term or viable solution. That’s why it’s important the community support the efforts and direction that the Placer Consortium on Homelessness and law enforcement are taking when it comes to facing the growing number of homeless in our area. In a recent Journal series titled “Homeless in Placer County,” representatives from the Placer County Sheriff’s Office and the Auburn Police Department said deputies and officers now take a more helpful approach when they encounter someone who is homeless. Deputy Kevin Griffiths, the transient liaison deputy for the Sheriff’s Office, said he looks at each person as an individual. It’s no longer a rough bust up of camps. Instead, there is an attempt to reach out and find out what that person’s needs are and how they can be met within reason. This is a huge, thoughtful and positive change in mindset. Capt. John Ruffcorn of the Auburn Police said law enforcement wants to be a part of a community solution. He added that not every homeless person should be arrested. Hopefully that open, humane attitude will trickle down, if it hasn’t already, to rank-and-file deputies and officers who are on the front lines. The Sheriff’s Office and Auburn Police are working together to craft an ordinance to stop panhandling. The ordinance could possibly give law enforcement another tool to fight a part of the problem. Those who work around those who are homeless on a regular basis say panhandlers typically are looking for a enough cash to buy a quick alcohol or drug fix. They represent the smallest portion of the homeless population yet are the most visible and create the negative reputation that surrounds someone without a home or job. Those writing the ordinance must be careful that they’re finding solutions, not just creating problems. Law enforcement officials, nonprofit and church leaders agree that homelessness is a multi-faceted issue that takes effort and help from many. One agency or group is not going to have the answer. In an attempt to unify those groups, the Placer Consortium on Homelessness was formed. It involves many agencies and nonprofits. Attendance ranges from 20 to 40 people at any given monthly meeting, said chairwoman Susan Farrington. It’s great that these groups are working together to find a viable solution to homelessness and to find ways to offer help to those who want it and take advantage of it the right way. Mike Pacheco was featured in the series. He currently lives out of his pickup and was excited to recently find a job in Auburn. He and his companion Beth Warwick, who is also working, are close to finding permanent housing. They both credited the help of Auburn’s Seventh-day Adventist Church, which offers free clothing, food and showers once a week, and the county’s Welcome Center with making a difference in helping them find a way to get back on their feet. Pacheco and Warwick represent a bigger, unseen aspect of the homeless population. “You don’t see them because they’re out trying to get a job,” Griffiths said. As a tight-knit community that prides itself on helping its own, it behooves Auburn residents to continue supporting the nonprofits and agencies as best they can. Nonprofits, county and city agencies should continue to meet and work hard to receive federal and state funding to maintain the programs that are effective in helping those who find themselves in the worst-case scenario. There is no easy solution. It is encouraging, however, to see Placer County and Auburn facing the problem and taking a multi-dimensional, realistic approach to figuring out how to get people off the streets and back into homes and into jobs.