I just got back from this REALLY good meeting with Akron’s Continuum of Care.
If you aren’t aware, these are the people and organizations that are tasked with helping the homeless in Akron and Summit County.
This meeting was entirely about helping our residents in our village get into housing.
The city of Akron has put a two month deadline to house all 44 of our people. And they put the entire responsibility of that task on The Continuum of Care.
These are organizations that are already running very thin. They have huge jobs working with the homeless of Akron.
And now they have this 2 month deadline of getting all these people into housing.
But what was great was they were really energized by the task. They were all thinking about ways they could help.
One person has a box truck we can use. Another person has storage space.
They all brainstormed together on how best to accomplish this task.
It was really cool to see.
We, as humans, have a tendency to want to look for villains. To look at who is in our tribe and who is not in our tribe.
I would like to caution against that tendency as we move forward.
There are no villains. There is no us and them.
We are ALL in this together.
If we are going to solve homelessness we are going to need every person, resource and organization working together to do it.
Homelessness is an incredibly challenging issue. There have always been homeless people.
But society has never done a great job, in my opinion, of thinking of creative ways on how to bring these people back into the fold.
I feel like we are at a time in our human evolution where we might be ready to work on this truly fundamental human issue.
One of the greatest parts of the meeting with the Continuum of Care was how concerned they were for these people’s psychological welfare both during and after these people get housed.
There was also sincere concern about all the other people that aren’t on this list of people we are currently focusing on.
It was truly beautiful.
They talked about making a systematic spreadsheet where the group could see what a particular person needed and then we could address it as a group.
- Who is going to help a person move into their apartment?
- Where are we going to get furniture?
- How are we going to follow up with these people after they are housed?
These questions, and many others, are the complicated aspects of working with people that were once homeless and now are not.
People not involved in the day to day operations of the homeless community might just see this as a house issue.
“We need to get these people into houses.”
I mentioned that to a case worker the other day and she looked at me puzzled. “You can’t just throw these people into houses and consider it case closed,” she said to me.
“You have to find the right house for that particular person,” she said.
The Continuum of Care is made up of people that truly care about this population. They know how to deal with these people in ways they need to be dealt with.
They have a lot of rules and regulations they are required to adhere to by law. So that can be a challenge for them. Government restrictions make working outside the box sometimes challenging.
During the meeting they were talking about 22 people they need to meet with that they have never met with before. They asked me if I could get those people to show up to a meeting. I said “sure.”
They asked me how I was going to do it. I just casually said I’d pay the people to show up at the meeting.
They laughed at me.
They aren’t legally allowed to do that kind of thing.
But on the other hand, they have many resources that I don’t have. They have case workers and therapists and actual housing.
We need each other.
An outsider, like me, can be confusing and strange to an insider. But my hope is that I am not seen as an enemy to them.
I hope they can see me as a person who is aligned exactly with them. I just am coming at the problem from a different direction,.
We don’t need to be negative to anyone along the way.
The best thing we can do is be positive and encouraging and helpful to anyone that needs help.
What if this process of quickly housing all our people helps build out new systems that enable the Continuum of Care to house more people faster down the road?
What if we all learn things through this process that makes us all better able to serve these people?
The Continuum of Care truly cares. I absolutely believe that.
I am so thankful they are working with me and our charity to help house these people.
And I’m really hopeful that we can work together in the future to house all the other homeless people that are currently still on the street and will be on the street in the future.
This is a rare and unique time in the history of America. We are doing things to help the homeless in ways that have never been done before.