Outreach critical in fight against homelessness

Many of the social ills our society faces these days are easy to see and hard to ignore.

Likely is the case you or someone you know has had an encounter with crime, domestic violence, substance abuse or depression, among many others. But one area residents might not see on a regular basis -- especially here on the Kenai Peninsula -- is the issue of homelessness.

In rural areas like the Kenai, homeless men, women and children may be living in cars, tents and makeshift shelters to survive the harsh winter. They are hidden away by the cold, forced into exile often unaware of where they can go for help.

But thankfully our community has decided to shine a line on this issue and take steps to help those among us without something we often take for granted -- a warm bed to rest at night.

A big round of applause is needed for Marti Slater, who organized Project Homeless Connect last week. The event provided information, services, hospitality and hot meals and several groups came together to gather information and focus on the local homeless population with the goal of expanding what outreach is currently available.

That's exciting. We must understand the issue and hear what it is we're doing wrong and what we are doing right so we can change or expand in hopes of reducing the homeless issue.

While events like these alone certainly won't end homelessness in the area, starting the conversation is the first and biggest step.

However, we must not get discouraged in that fight -- there are people both greatly needing help and those more than willing to help.

Let's help connect the two.

Among those helping are The Way Cafe, Merit Inn, Love INC, several area churches, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, local businesses and many others too numerous to list here. If you've helped the problem in some way, we owe you thanks.

Unfortunately, many people across the nation these days aren't willing to get involved, volunteer and help with the issues a community faces. Thankfully we have many local folks in the area with big hearts and bigger determinations.

Keep up the good work because the results can be surprising.

The Clarion recently had the opportunity to share Jimmy Summers' story. His experiences were similar with many of those in the area -- living in the back of his vehicle, cold, hungry and without information on where to go or where to get help when the situation turned into a crisis.

We're thankful Summers was able escape the clutches of homelessness -- he now serves in a key role with Love, INC at the Merit Inn making sure the place stays up and running and is also a stalwart of the organization's mission.

That just goes to show when you put positive energy into the community, you usually get positive energy out. Let's help focus our energy on homelessness.

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