Education needed regarding homelessness

To the Editor:

Regarding the report in the Aug. 8 Union Democrat about the meeting to discuss homelessness and the letters to the editor about this topic since then, it is encouraging to see motivation for tackling the complicated needs surrounding this ongoing issue.

It is evident, however, that the Sonora City Council as well as our entire community need a period of investigation and education about what exactly the problems are specific to Tuolumne County.

Comments that suggest that churches are making the problem worse by giving out free meals and other supplies to those in need are not only callous, but distract from the larger issues. Decision makers need to guard against confirmation bias, which is the tendency to pay attention to information that confirms one’s beliefs and dismisses contradictory information.

It is evident that more knowledge is needed before any task force develops a plan that involves resources and/or money. Homelessness is not a simple issue.

Perhaps the first step is to investigate our assets, or the activities and programs that are already operating in our community. There are numerous opportunities to observe this problem firsthand. The Lambert Center is entirely staffed by volunteers and has been providing an important community service that is unique and important.

Various programs, such as the Green Bag Food program and Interfaith, offer support to individuals, many who are on the verge of homelessness and food challenged. It might be productive for members of our council and our community to visit county churches that are serving meals to visit with both the providers and the participants and learn of their needs. These and various other current interventions need to be catalogued and coordinated to investigate where the gaps are, and there certainly are many.

We propose it is not helpful to identify homelessness as only one problem with a silver bullet solution. Stereotyping those who are homeless will not solve “the problem.” Perhaps, with more education, we can learn of innovative interventions that have been tried and are working, particularly in rural communities, and we can move forward as a community with a better view of what needs to be done in order to spend our time and money more effectively.

Judi and Bill Wilson