Homelessness is not my field of expertise, but I feel it is incumbent upon the Santa Clarita Valley community to focus on this scourge against humanity. My passion has always been for elder seniors and veterans, but now many have joined the ranks of the homeless, jeopardizing their health and wellbeing. The Signal has asked for ideas, so I provide these, some of which have been in this newspaper in the past:
- Recognize Bridge to Home has existing programs that need help in expansion. The need goes beyond just temporarily feeding and housing the homeless, but seeks to “triage” them through social workers, counselors, psychologists, and drug rehab;
2. The city of Santa Clarita should work hand-in-hand with this group, and the first thing would be to find a permanent homeless site in our valley and extend services to year round; 3. There is funding available, but obtaining these monies can be tricky. Let us and the city find experts to help us do this so we get our fair share; 4. Through the city and small and large businesses, let us seek employment opportunities for those who might qualify; 5. Use College of the Canyons to provide education in areas of adeptness that might open a door to employment; 6. We must screen for mental health disease and drug dependency, using established county and state facilities for referral; 7. Have a continual “head count” of homeless in our community and make sure they are categorized, especially for elder seniors and veterans. This can also be used to determine the effectiveness of our programs; 8. Prioritize targeted groups like families, seniors, and veterans to get them off the streets quickly; 9. Work with county, state and federal agencies sharing ideas, statistics and strategy to enhance our program; 10. Teach our children not to stigmatize the homeless so they are prepared to extend their hands one day in the future; 11. Be mindful of those who are fearful of helping the homeless; don’t label them as lazy, worthless, etc. Not everyone has empathy, but for those who do let us join together and help; 12. Have personal homeless stories in The Signal so those in their comfort zone share the reality of homelessness and recognize it only as a faltered step in life. These few ideas might be a start, and I hope other residents will come forward with their suggestions. One day, at the end of life, you will ask yourself what you have contributed, and helping the homeless will be on your list. More importantly, though, it will also be possessed in your heart and soul. Dr. Gene Uzawa Dorio is a Saugus resident.