City and county government agencies exist to protect the life, health and safety of their citizens. Such agencies provide these protections in a number of ways including safe sidewalks so pedestrians don’t have to walk in the street, crosswalks so people can “more” safely cross the street and traffic signal devices to keep traffic flowing in an orderly manner.
No one considers such services as acting like a “Nanny State.” So why is it that some local governments do not provide similar life-and-death provisions for the homeless? The last we looked, the homeless are people too. Our “leave it to someone else” attitude is just as dangerous as if there were no traffic controls on our streets.
Consistency within the broad powers and obligations of local governments should compel our elected leaders to admit that they have a DUTY to provide the homeless a safe place to sleep when temperatures fall below 40 degrees – AT A MINIMUM. It should be a PERMANENT city budget provision – not left to the vagaries of occasional city grants or “do-gooders” who may or may not apply in a timely manner to provide such services. Cities and counties provide police and fire protection 24/7. Our cities and counties should also provide homeless services as an ongoing service during inclement weather. Especially in light of the fact that homelessness is GROWING…not shrinking.
To continue to leave it to “somebody else” to provide homeless services until it’s too late to comply with city and state planning laws is not good enough. We expect more from our elected leaders. We, as a true community, MUST plan ahead!!
To their credit, the Lincoln City City Council provided two groups with $45,000 each for homeless services. But in one high profile case, dealing with very vulnerable individuals, (the other shelter was for families) the council awarded the money very late in the year and later learned the property selected by the group wasn’t properly zoned for a homeless shelter, which created a legal and political mess since the shelter belongs to the Mayor.
OUR homeless crisis is nationwide. Cities and counties should therefore receive financial support from our state and federal governments. But in the meantime, local governments should step into the breach and provide citizens with a warm place to sleep, far enough in advance, so the weather doesn’t make them sick or even kill them.
We can do better. So let’s actually do better.