Plan to Reduce Focus on Clark County Homelessness at Community Forum
“One thing the council has done a little differently this year than we have in previous years is that we have worked very hard to intentionally connect with members of the homeless community here across the Clark County,” said Siobhana McEwen, director of advocacy and equity for the Homeless Council. “We were very specific and intentional in hearing people out. What services do you need? What do you get and what don’t you get? What works and what doesn’t? We want to know these things so that we can incorporate these comments directly into the plan. »
Tuesday’s event, held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Vancouver, was a general forum open to everyone, but previous forums have focused on specific groups, such as a Black and African American community forum, a Native American and Indigenous Community and an LGBTQ+ Community Forum. Upcoming forums will focus on rural communities in Clark County.
“It was a new approach,” McEwen said. “The data tells us that there are some people who experience homelessness at much higher rates than others. And so these are the people where the systemic barriers really exist. And who knows these obstacles better than the people who encounter them? So we made it a point to really try to reach out to different culturally specific groups, to reach out directly to homeless people, and to have forums that way.
So far, the method has been successful, according to McEwen.
“One thing we’ve definitely heard is that, especially in communities where systemic barriers are so massive, we see a great need to have community- or culture-specific services,” McEwen said. . “It’s a lot easier to feel validated and heard by someone who looks and feels like you, someone who understands the culture, who understands the obstacles you’ve faced.”
Tuesday’s event featured four speakers: Andy Silver, COO of the Vancouver Housing Authority; Alishia Topper, Clark County Treasurer; Jamie Spinelli, Homelessness Response Coordinator for the City of Vancouver; and Adam Kravitz, executive director of Foreigners’ Inn. Katie Jolma, a consultant hired by the Council for the Homeless to help develop the plan, moderated the event. Thirty people were present.