Homelessness affects the whole community

  • Saturday, September 17, 2016 2:34pm
  • Opinion

Anyone can experience homelessness.

That notion should be viewed as the foundation for efforts to assist the homeless population here on the Kenai Peninsula.

Too often, people who find themselves homeless are thought of as “them,” when in fact, they are as much “us” as any other member of our community.

This past week, a pair of workshops were organized by community groups to look for ideas to combat homelessness on the Kenai Peninsula. Kenai Peninsula Journey Home is a new organization working on a collaborative approach to the issue. Other organizations, such as Love INC, Project Homeless Connect, several area church groups, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Students in Transition Program, continue to offer outreach and assistance to those in need.

Still, homelessness is a problem that won’t go away.

Homelessness on the Kenai Peninsula doesn’t necessarily look the same as it does in other places. We don’t tend to see as much panhandling on street corners as you might see in Anchorage — but the central peninsula does have a number of homeless camps, with people living in tents year-round.

But homelessness here is also just as likely to be a family or individual with no permanent residence that bounces from couch to couch or ends up sleeping in a car. And while organizations work hard to provide resources for those who find themselves homeless, one of the biggest needs remains temporary and transitional housing. Since Love INC’s Family Hope Center closed in 2013, people with no place to go have had very few options for a bed for the night.

Over the past several months, a number of other projects have been launched to provide transitional housing for people in other situations — for example, those recovering from addiction.

Challenges for maintaining a transitional housing facility for homeless families in the past have included funding, but also reluctance from the community to be part of the solution. We hope that attitude is changing. As we noted, homelessness isn’t as visible here as it is in other places, but it persists.

We are heartened to see members of our community continue to reach out and help where they see a problem, despite the challenges. After all, a community is only as strong as its most vulnerable members. But we’re all part of the same community, and reaching out to the members of our community who need help makes it a better place for everyone.

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