It's no secret that tough times have settled on Central Oregon.
Foreclosures are up and 401Ks are down. These are anxious days for our
republic and for our town. But times are a little bit tougher for some
and we as a community got a glimpse of that last weekend when more than
1,800 people in need, many of them children, showed up to Deschutes
County Fair Grounds for a helping hand during a one-day outreach event
targeted at Central Oregon's homeless population. That's a roughly
fifty percent increase in individuals seeking assistance from just last
year when 1,200 people attended the inaugural event
The evidence is clear: homeless is a serious problem in our community that is only growing worse.
survey conducted earlier this year found that more than 1,700 Central
Oregonians had no permanent housing or were sleeping in cars, the homes
of friends, shared motel rooms and, in the worst cases, outside. More
than a third of the homeless were children.
Government does not have the money or the tools to tackle this growing problem. And while a one-day event won't solve homelessness in Central Oregon, it's more than a step in the right direction. Follow-up work to last year's event raised some $10,000 that went directly to assist families in need and organizers have begun work on a 10-year plan to eliminate homelessness in Central Oregon. In the meantime, the community owes a debt of gratitude to the businesses and individuals who contributed their time and money to pull off the massive outreach that provided the homeless individuals and families with critical supplies and resources to get them off the streets and back on their feet. According to Project Homeless Connect's Cindy Pasko more than 600 volunteers pitched in. That's a massive effort, a small army of citizens who opted to spend a sizable portion of their weekend reaching out to their less fortunate neighbors. It's a gesture that speaks volumes about the community and its ability to bind together during hard times
It's hard to measure success in this kind of event when the more people who show up the bigger the problem is.
But Pasko said the fact that "businesses, non-profits, faith-based organizations, public agencies and school children worked together countless hours to serve our neighbors," is the best yardstick for the event. And in that respect, Project Homeless Connect was a success.
There is no one solution to the issue of homelessness, nor its myriad underlying causes. But a community that is willing to tackle the issue head on with a coordinated approach is more likely to make a dent in the problem and a difference in the lives of those who are struggling at the margin than a community who waits for someone, or something else to step in and solve the problem. For their selfless work and commitment to changing people's lives, we're handing the Glass Slipper to everyone who participated in this year's event, including the 600 volunteers, organizers, and business partners. That's a lot of slippers, but you earned them. Keep up the good work.