Collaborate to help homeless community

September 25, 2018

I read with interest Mark Edwards’ My View (“Helping our homeless community,” Sept. 9). He offers a framework for how to view the different types of homeless, which offers insight for further discussion.

However, he misses some groups that merit recognition as a part of the overall issue and have unique needs — families, particularly with children; youth in general; and the elderly. Additionally, there is the population at the edge, which is not homeless but at high risk, depending on health and economic status, and then those who typically are not recognized but exist in significant numbers — people living with friends or relatives and in cars.

Our health and service agencies are collectively doing their best to serve these populations, but services fall well short of the need. What to do?

There is a group in Santa Fe that is taking a bold look at how the overall system might be reordered to the benefit of all. The group, One Door campus, advocates a comprehensive, integrated approach to address the needs of the whole person, not just one particular service or another, with the long-term objective of assisting individuals and families to be as self-sufficient as possible.

We have housing programs, health programs, social support programs, but they tend to work independently and people get lost in the shuffle. A campus where these services could be shared is attractive, but it also generates local community opposition. There are options, such as a smaller campus or the creation of a virtual campus to provide the coordination necessary. Many of the seeds of this approach already exist in Santa Fe, and I applaud the county’s initiative to create a crisis center and its establishment of a navigator program to coordinate service delivery.

Programs similar to the framework described above exist elsewhere in the nation and are demonstrating promising results in terms of reducing police, fire and hospital emergency room utilization and expenditures. There is no reason that Santa Fe should be unable to rise to this challenge, but it will require more collaboration, a willingness to try new ways of working together, and a closer relationship with the homeless themselves to be sure that we are meeting their needs.

Dan Nickelson, after many years in Washington, D.C., is a Santa Fe resident and a member of the One Door campus board of directors.

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