Also published on The Huffington Post
Many people feel that homelessness will never end. They believe that homelessness is just too big a problem to solve. Because of this belief, some people become paralyzed, unable or unwilling to see any resolution to the pain caused by homelessness for millions of families and individuals.
I firmly believe that homelessness can be solved. We created homelessness by cutting programs without providing programs that kept people housed. As more and more people became homeless, we ignored the issues of homelessness and the situation grew more dire. Finally, the foreclosure crisis continues to create homeless families in record numbers.
I suggest that we use the expression that is often used when speaking about resolving the enormous issue of global warming, “think globally and act locally,” to encourage local solutions to the national issue of homelessness.
Fortunately, I am not alone in my belief that homelessness can end. In fact, there are programs in existence today that are actually helping to solve homelessness. But, perhaps these programs are just not well known. So, in an effort to offer tangible proof that homelessness can be solved, I like to highlight local programs, including North County Solutions for Change, which I feel are actually successfully helping to end homelessness.
Located in Vista, California, North County Solutions for Change, http://www.solutionsforchange.org, is an innovative program, created by Chris and Tammy Megison, which offers a permanent solution for family homelessness. My friend, Hannah Cohen, a policy consultant on issues of housing and homelessness, suggested that I visit North County Solutions for Change and she was kind enough to arrange a meeting for me with Chris Megison, President and Executive Director. The bottom line — I am very grateful to Hannah for the recommendation and very grateful to Chris and Tammy for developing their successful program.
The concept of North County Solutions for Change is that of The Solutions University which consists of three clusters of housing with educational programs, employment preparation and health solutions: Solutions Intake and Access Center (IAC), the Solutions Family Center (SFC) and New Solutions (permanent housing units). Solutions University utilizes the efforts of the participants themselves and the support of program coaches over a period of 500 days on campus and 500 days off campus to solve family homelessness.
The IAC has 14 semi-private dorm room styles units for families for which the families pay 30 percent of their income for rent. The goal of IAC is “to provide immediate housing, support and comprehensive assessment for Solutions University applicants awaiting the move into the main on-campus Solutions Family Center.” http://www.solutionsforchange.org/campus/ The IAC is designed for three month or less stays, but due to the affordable housing crisis, families are spending more time in IAC than originally intended.
However, North County Solutions for Change has a new community initiative, Finding Our Way Home, through which it plans to acquire more affordable homes so that families can move off campus and into this permanent housing and families in the IAC can move onto the SFC on Solutions University campus.
Situated on two acres of land, SFC has 32 fully furnished apartment units, with full kitchens shared by each pair of apartment units, within four buildings in a campus style setting. Families pay 30 percent of their income for rent and can stay for 500 days. 10 percent of all rent is returned to the families when they complete the SFC program and move into permanent housing at New Solutions. A fifth building is a 7,600 sq. ft support center with educational, work training and baby-sitting spaces. A staff of trained coaches encourage and support the residents.
New Solutions is comprised of permanent affordable housing for families who have completed the 500 days on the Solutions campus. Currently, North County Solutions for Change has nineteen housing units where families can stay for 500 days with Solutions University services and then continue to live in those homes on a permanent basis. However, through their new community initiative, Finding Our Way Home, North County Solutions for Change hopes to acquire 70-100 new permanent affordable housing units.
Chris explained to me that he believes that no nonprofit or government agency can solve homelessness alone, but that it takes every part of our community to work together to end homelessness. In my opinion, Chris and Tammy have created a program that the whole community should support because North County Solutions truly helps people transition from homelessness to permanent housing. Further, I believe that North County Solutions for Change needs to be replicated so that homeless families in other communities can end their homelessness.
Please note that Chris invites everyone to learn about the Finding Our Way Home campaign by joining the Live Webcast details of which Chris sets forth as follows:
“After working on this for over a year, Solutions for Change will launch a massive communitywide initiative in less than a week. Called Finding Our Way Home, the 1000 day campaign will officially get underway on April 22, 2010 at a community leadership breakfast event. You may join in this special event though a LIVE Webcast, available to Solutions for Change Facebook Fans here: http://www.facebook.com/solutionsforchange (you must sign up). Solutions has assembled some impressive people to lead the charge; the CEO of Taylor Made-addidas Golf, Mark King will lead the team. He, along with CEO Bumble Bee Foods Chris Lischewski and several other top executives and elected officials from around the region have rolled up their sleeves to prove that yes indeed, the impacts of homelessness on our neighbors and on our community, has met its match. It can in your community too.”
Homelessness is solvable. North County Solutions for Change is proof.