Letting Perfect Get in the Way of Progress

Michelle has been busy out in the community lately – see her above with a journalist from Germany, accepting a check from the Eugene Realtors, and at the Eugene Chamber of Commerce Celebration of business!

With the Governor’s recent executive orders recognizing homelessness as a state of emergency, there’s a mixed reaction of excitement that there is potential forward momentum in finding solutions and cynicism that the budget and policies being put forward won’t be enough to fix anything.

Admittedly, for those of us who have been working to address the needs of the unhoused for the past several years, we’re frustrated when we hear people say, “It’s about time someone does something.” Seriously? Walk a mile in our shoes! We also know how frustrating it is that, for every person we can help find and keep housing, there are ten more that we haven’t been able to serve. I heard one of my peers say the other day that even the $130 million proposed is just a drop in the bucket for what is needed for lasting results.

Hang on, everyone! This is where I’m going to start to preach.

Homelessness is a complex issue. In fact, I would argue that homelessness isn’t actually an issue but an outcome of the intersection of MANY other problems: poverty, housing scarcity, mental illness, trauma, climate change, addictions, access to education, discrimination, and so on. There’s no single, perfect, magic-wand solution that will “fix” homelessness. Because of that, it takes many different programs and agencies to focus on their expertise while collaborating with other agencies doing what they do best. 

This complexity makes it look like homelessness isn’t being solved at all. But what you don’t see is that change is happening–sometimes one person or family at a time–as multiple, unique needs are being addressed. 

I get it. We want to see change happen now. We want homelessness to be gone. Tomorrow.

Yet homelessness didn’t become a city (or state or even national) emergency overnight. All of those problems I mentioned before layered over themselves, year after year, as wages didn’t grow, available housing for all income levels didn’t expand, and capacity for healthcare didn’t keep up with need. Just to describe a few. 

So what am I trying to say? I’m saying that every idea and every little bit of funding is important and that we can’t let finding the perfect solution get in the way of making any progress. Like the story where a child throws one starfish at a time back into the ocean and says she may not be able to help them all, what she is doing is important to the ones she can save. Being able to help those we can, should not be lost in our goal to reach everyone.

So I suggest we put aside our cynicism that there won’t be enough change, and focus on putting the strategies we do have into play because helping one person is better than helping no one.

Want to know more? Join ShelterCare on May 4th for a panel of experts answering questions on the local housing crisis! Click HERE to register.

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