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By Margaret Cleek–
Few people can see a ragged, dirty person pushing a pile of possessions in a shopping cart, or camped in a mass of tarps and blankets without processing a flood of emotion about homelessness.
Some may experience deep compassion and a strong belief that these people should be helped. Others may experience anger, and believe that laws should exist to assure these people don’t ruin our city and endanger the public health and welfare.
Whatever one’s feelings about the homeless, most consider homelessness an issue of concern which needs to be addressed.
The people we see with their carts and camps are really just the tip of the iceberg. Many homeless sleep in their cars or depend on a dwindling supply of friends to loan them the couch, and many more are housing insecure: on the verge of eviction with nowhere to go.
It is understandable that seeing the homeless makes us feel helpless, and that the situation is beyond our capacity to solve. We may feel embarrassed and compelled to help in the presence of the homeless, but know a few bucks or even a twenty handed to a homeless person will not solve the problem, and may enable substance abuse.
Those who want to address the problem of homelessness, whether driven by compassion or anger, fully recognize they are not individually in a position to do much to address it.
There is however, right in your city, an organization which is capable of helping and has a track record of success doing so. I have been a member of the board and its secretary since 2016 and have learned that homelessness is a very local issue that is best addressed with highly localized solutions. The homeless situation in Citrus Heights is manageable with a few hundred living on our streets versus the thousands of homeless in the downtown area.
Citrus Heights HART (Homeless Assistance and Resource Team) has as its mission assisting the homeless so that they can get off the street. Working with Sacramento Self-help Housing, which employs professional homeless outreach navigators to assist the homeless by identifying the barriers to housing and working to overcome them. This may entail obtaining social services for which individuals may be eligible and other services which will assist them with housing.
Citrus Heights HART works with faith-based groups to coordinate a rotating winter shelter for the first 9-10 weeks of the year. HART also works with Citrus Heights Police Department officers and city officials on broader strategies and longer term solutions.
Citrus Heights HART provides housing and other grants for individuals for transitional and permanent housing; as well as, drug rehab and recovery homes. HART also provides assistance in instances where, due to a catastrophic event, an individual or family cannot pay rent for the month.
For us, preventing homelessness is as important; once someone is homeless it is a much more difficult situation.
Through the assistance efforts of the navigator this last year, 175 people were housed (including children in families); 79 were provided ID vouchers in order to obtain services including SSI and veteran benefits, 41 received gift cards from Walmart and other local businesses; and 119 have been provided bus passes for needed appointments. The Navigator, medical professionals and others participate in Winter Shelter to provide assistance.
HART is succeeding in alleviating the crisis of homelessness in Citrus Heights.
I too used to feel helpless, but now I know I am a part of a successful effort to help those most in need in our community. I encourage you to join me and participate as a volunteer or donate to help us provide more assistance.
This will not only help to eliminate homelessness, but will also alleviate the emotions you feel when you see homeless people on the streets, knowing that you are now taking effective action as part of a professional resource team to address this important concern.
If you would like to learn more about Citrus Heights HART or donate to alleviate homelessness right here in Citrus Heights, please visit www.citrusheightshart.org.
Margaret Cleek is a Citrus Heights resident who serves as a board member and secretary for the Citrus Heights Homeless Assistance and Resource Team.
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