"Homelessness can be Solved"

"Homelessness can be Solved"
Photo by Ev / Unsplash

The City of Salina recently hosted a significant public forum addressing the pressing issue of homelessness in our community. The forum had standing room only attendance, including Mayor Longbine, Vice Mayor Lenkiewicz, Commissioners Ivey, Hoppock, and Davis, alongside dedicated City Staff. Lauren Driscoll, Director of Community & Development Services, emphasized the city's commitment to learning about the complexities of homelessness.

Driscoll shared insights gained from conferences and collaborations with the state-level homeless coalition, introducing Julia Orlando, Director of the Bergen County Housing Health & Human Services Center in New Jersey. Orlando, a seasoned professional passionate about ending homelessness, conveyed her experiences and success in achieving functional zero homelessness.

Orlando addressed the engaged community, expressing enthusiasm for their readiness to tackle the issue. She shared best practices from Bergen County, emphasizing the importance of communication, a shared focus, and desired outcomes. Orlando urged the community to move beyond managing homelessness to actively ending it, highlighting the necessity of clear purpose and collaboration.

The forum also touched upon the challenges posed by the growth of cities, housing demand, and the correlation between personal attributes and homelessness.

The conversation shifted towards a detailed exploration of Bergen County's approach, featuring a comprehensive shelter with onsite services, a holistic model aimed at rebuilding lives. Orlando advocated for repealing anti-panhandling laws, redirecting resources towards housing, jobs, and services.

Ashley Arganbright, KDADS Housing First Project Coordinator, presented homelessness statistics and emphasized the significance of housing as a starting point for individuals to reintegrate into the community. Commissioner Hoppock inquired about key priorities in Salina, with Orlando highlighting the need for low barrier shelters.

Commissioner Lenkiewicz sought further details on low barrier shelters and funding sources, with Orlando revealing that the majority of funding comes from the county level, supplemented by state and federal contributions. Commissioner Ivey inquired about building new shelters, to which Orlando commended existing efforts and emphasized identifying specific needs.

Commissioner Davis sought guidance on coordinating efforts, with Orlando advocating for recognizing and supporting existing leaders. Mayor Longbine focused on substance abuse solutions, and Orlando emphasized immediate treatment when individuals seek help.

The forum demonstrated a collective commitment to addressing homelessness, with a shared understanding that ending homelessness requires a multifaceted approach and active collaboration from all community members.

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