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Placer has plan for homeless

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Thank you, Auburn Journal, for your thought-provoking and informative reporting on homelessness in Placer County. The recent articles brought a very positive focus on local homeless individuals who are working hard to improve their lives and on the wonderful work being done by many individuals, groups and churches to provide a helping hand-up. However, as the recent Journal editorial of April 13 points out, now is the time for our community to come together to address this issue in a comprehensive way. The solutions to the problem of homelessness are not that complicated. In 2004 the Placer Consortium on Homelessness joined with many others to agree on a 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness in Placer County. There were many excellent ideas adopted into the plan, but two top strategies were: creation of affordable housing and employment assistance. The affordable housing priority emphasizes a Housing First approach which recognizes “... housing as the basis for all the other work that people who are homeless must do to regain stability and enhance self-sufficiency. Accordingly, the Housing First approach seeks to assist the homeless in accessing stable housing as soon as possible. Once they are housed, they are linked with services and a support system to address other needs.” The creation of affordable housing is the critical ingredient to address the issue of homelessness. The second priority is employment, and the plan calls for increased employment services for low-income persons. It has been said that employment is the “principle defense against ending up on, or returning to, the streets.” This was true before the economic downturn, and now our homeless providers are reporting ever-increasing numbers of “new homeless” suffering from the recession. Contrary to popular myths about voluntary homelessness, a recent survey conducted in May 2010 at a Homeless Connect event in Sacramento showed that 90 percent of the homeless were unemployed and that 88 percent “want to work.” Let’s heed the call of the Auburn Journal to come together as a community and pursue these and other solutions to the problem of homelessness. Herb Whitaker, Auburn