BOGER: In that same vein, homelessness seems to be this ever-present concern. Of course, the county and cities have taken steps individually, like building new shelters, but what else can the county do to help these people?
HILL: This goes back to that regionalization. I think that many citizens are frustrated with the fact that the cities and the county seem to be working in their little areas about, ‘Well, we’re addressing the men’s shelter,’ or, ‘We’re addressing the women and family shelter.’ They’re more addressing the symptoms and not the causes of homelessness. There are many best practices that other communities are using. One of them is ‘built for zero.’ For example, we have 2,000 people living on the street. That’s so big. What do we do? You’re looking at it on a person-by-person, unique basis because these are people in our community, so they all have different issues and needs, and they all deserve to be looked at as individuals, not as one big group. So, you may have someone living on the street who has a job, and perhaps it wasn’t a domestic violence situation. There are resources for that, right?
There may be someone living on the street because they have some sort of chronic addiction issue. There are resources for that. There may be someone who’s living there because they have mental health issues. What you do is you work with these people, what kind of benefits do they have? Are there social safety nets that we can help them find and reach out to? I think, down the line, you’re looking at families even using navigators. Say that there is someone in their family that has a mental health issue and is on the street, but maybe has a place to live most of the time. They can work through the resources through the state, the resources through the county, and the cities to find solutions. So I think that this is something that we can actually tackle, especially with chronic and veterans homelessness. There are many models out there and I’m very excited about the possibility of ending chronic and veterans homelessness in Washoe County.