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A Call for Change: Rethinking our approach to homelessness (opinion)


By Monica DuPea

Have you ever wondered why the issue of homelessness persists, despite all our efforts to combat it? It’s time to admit that we, the helpers, have a role to play in this ongoing crisis. We possess the power and knowledge to make a difference, yet we often find ourselves inadvertently contributing to the problem instead of being part of the solution.

The time has come for us to acknowledge this and do things differently.

What we all desire is a system of care that empowers people to reach their highest potential. Unfortunately, our current approach rushes people into assistance programs with strict eligibility requirements that limit their income and, in turn, their capabilities. To address homelessness effectively, we must explore new strategies, housing tiers, assessment tools, and individualized housing plans. It’s time to abandon shortcuts and the one-size-fits-all mentality; if we want to see change, we must act differently.

Creating a new system requires catalysts and change agents who can turn a vision into reality. Catalysts are passionate individuals who initiate change, relentlessly pursue their goals, and continuously refine their methods. They refuse to conform to the status quo and are dedicated to achieving the desired outcomes.

Deeply engaging with those in need is essential to helping homeless individuals progress along the continuum toward permanent housing. However, a robust housing continuum remains elusive, despite years of effort and millions of dollars spent. To make a significant impact, we need meaningful relationships between the homeless population, service providers, and the community.

Additionally, when making non-monetary donations, we must do more than drop off items and walk away. These donations should serve as conversation starters, allowing us to understand the barriers that prevent individuals from seeking shelter. By staying and cleaning up after distribution, we not only dispel the notion that homeless people trash the community but also become informed advocates.

Leading the charge in solving homelessness is a complex task that demands various competencies. It requires a keen understanding of the problem and the ability to measure the impact of our actions. We often report outcomes regarding increases or decreases, but we must bridge the gap between feeling effective and actually being effective.

Blindness and incompetence should never be excuses for government and nonprofit organizations. When we realize something isn’t working, we should be unafraid to try something new. Historically, funding has prioritized relationships over effective projects, and controlling the homelessness narrative has overshadowed the work of building an efficient system of care. Nonprofit organizations, despite their noble missions, are still businesses. Data should guide our decisions about which programs and agencies to support, and our leaders and staff should be committed to revisiting strategies until goals are achieved.

Above all, we must avoid nepotism and tokenism in key roles, ensuring that individuals are qualified for their positions. Only through these changes can we hope to see a significant transformation in the homeless situation in Reno.

Monica Dupea

In conclusion, it’s time for us, the helpers, to take a long, hard look at our approach to homelessness. We have the power to make a difference, but we must use it wisely, reevaluate our strategies, and work together to create lasting change. Let’s leave behind the old ways and embrace a new vision for addressing homelessness in our community.

Monica DuPea is the executive director of the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project.

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