We all know that homelessness is a growing concern in our entire region. Sumner is not immune:in fact, we never have been. There are stories of how in the ’30s, “hobos” or “tramps” (the term used back then) would gather at the river by the Cannery, which was then actually a cannery. Like then, homelessness now is usually about something else, not just lack of housing. There’s no question that it affects the entire community, and cities large and small alike struggle with how best to address it. At the same time, “it” is all about people, and our theoretical and conceptual conversations must remember the humanity at its core.
As I talk to people around town, I find also that there are perceptions about homelessness that may or may not be true. While I sometimes understand people’s fears, homelessness itself is not a crime. Yet our Police Officers do a great job trying to get to know our homeless population so that they can check on their wellfare and understand what other issues individuals are facing. One thing that I think has really helped in our community is the networking that takes place behind the scenes to coordinate assistance and serve the needs of families that find themselves in this situation. I grew up hearing the old adage, if you give a person a fish, you feed him once; teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime. One-time handouts don’t seem to help anyone, despite the good intentions. Helping established organizations like the YWCA, Catholic Community Services, or our Family Center that try to tackle the root problems that cause homelessness, whether that’s domestic violence, drug addiction, unemployment, etc. can be much more effective.
For several years now, Project Homeless Connect has been doing great work to help. This annual event started here in Sumner at Calvary Community Church and grew so much that it is now at the fairgrounds. In their own words, “Project Homeless Connect provides a starting place on the journey back to safety, stability, health, and hope. Project Homeless Connect reduces the duration of homelessness by providing services that address the basic needs; basic medical and dental care, access to education, employment and benefits systems, chemical dependency assessments, flu shots, haircuts, and much more – all under one roof!” Take a look at their website for more information. I like that they are about reconnecting individuals, reconnecting to help, to society, to others, as I think that’s what this is all about.
In addition, the Sumner Food Bank does great work with directly providing food. The Sumner Pierce County Library offers classes for resume building and computer skills to help people get jobs, and Exodus Housing helps individuals fleeing domestic violence. If we all work together, maybe we can make a difference in the local version of this national issue. After all, I often think it’s the small towns like Sumner who can do more quickly than the big cities in the news.
Mayor Dave Enslow