By editorial board • 

Homeless help group dies of disinterest

How much do McMinnville citizens care about people spending cold winter nights shivering under tarps and blankets without the basic necessity of shelter? Perhaps one indication is that the city’s subcommittee on homelessness is about to be scuttled for lack of interest.

City Councilor Remy Drabkin said the subcommittee, which functions under the umbrella of the Affordable Housing Task Force, draws too few people to keep it going.

Plans call for the panel’s mission to be folded into that of the Affordable Housing Task Force, so that all its good work can continue. But we could ask how much good work has been accomplished.

In fairness, some dedicated people have worked quietly behind the scenes seeking solutions, but there has been little impact on the street level beyond shuffling homeless people more out of sight and mind.

The City Council did approve a much-publicized program in August 2018 to allow a select group of people to live in their cars with the consent of private property owners. However, since no one involved in the program will say how many people it helps, our best guess is, not many.

Facing the complexities of homelessness issues, government response often turns into talk, talk and more talk. Local talk once included hiring a full-time manager to oversee the county’s various homeless programs — another idea that seems to have died on the vine.

Now, homeless people won’t even receive a high level of talk, not that more bureaucracy was the best solution.

Returning homelessness to the general umbrella of “affordable housing” betrays a fundamental fallacy in the city’s thinking — that lack of affordable housing is a primary reason for homelessness. Some argue it is not even among the top three reasons.

You could give many homeless people the keys to a four-bedroom house, and they would be back on the street within days, thanks to addictions, mental health issues and other challenges.

Organizations such as Champion Team, Yamhill County Gospel Rescue Mission, Yamhill Community Action Partnership and numerous churches make valiant efforts to address homelessness. And yes, they often receive help from city government.

What they don’t receive is a broad, coordinated leadership effort. We know such an effort is no easy matter in a city that rebelled against camping by a visible homeless community, but there are alternatives ways to help some homeless people without trying to solve homelessness.

McMinnville unquestionably has improved the aesthetics of its streets and neighborhoods. But perhaps it’s indifference to underlying issues that causes the homeless subcommittee to close its doors.


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