In Crook County, homelessness has remained a problem that lacks a clear cut solution.

The recession made a difficult situation worse as the substantial spike in unemployment and the housing market crash left some people struggling to maintain a home.

Now the economy is improving, but Crook County and the rest of the Central Oregon region not only failed to see improvement, they saw things get worse yet again.

We have learned that the primary culprit for the recent upward trend in numbers is spawned by a lack of affordable housing as the economy recovers. Though it’s not getting as much attention, another factor is the job growth in the area has been in sectors that offer little to no entry level employment.

When the economy improves and the homeless situation in a community gets worse, it’s time to examine the way that the community, from its leaders to its citizens, addresses the problem. While we understand that the battle against homelessness will never have a silver bullet fix, it’s clear that new strategies are in order.

Mid Oregon Personnel President Greg Lambert recently approached the Prineville City Council to ask for their help in encouraging the development of affordable housing in Crook County. No solutions came that night, but this is the sort of action we as a community need to take.

Local leaders need to look for ways to stem development of cheaper housing whether through incentives or some other vehicle. They need to find ways to not only attract living wage jobs, but entry level jobs as well.

It takes vigilance from the community at-large as well, whether it’s a nonprofit group reaching out to help the homeless through a fundraiser or creation of a new shelter, or helping local leaders identify more people who need help.

Citizens need to keep their eyes and ears open and when they learn of individuals or families who are in trouble, they should do their best to connect them with people or organizations that can help.

We applaud the efforts of community leaders who have continually looked for ways to make a dent in a growing problem. Without their work, the problem would undoubtedly be worse than it is. Nevertheless, in a situation this complex where economic improvement fails to help, a community needs new ideas and commitment and vigilance from its leaders down to its citizens.

Hopefully, such action will result in homeless numbers finally dropping.

Contract Publishing

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