Here’s one way to deal with a problem: Pretend it doesn’t exist and hope it goes away by itself.
But when you’re a government body dealing with actual people — particularly your own homeless residents who might have issues with poverty, drug use, mental illness and veteran-related issues — it’s compassionate and responsible to do as much as possible to address the problem.
In refusing to participate in a federal program to help homeless individuals and families, or to accept the federal money that goes along with it, Fulton County officials appear to be taking the ostrich approach to governing.
They need to reconsider.
Right now, Fulton County is set to become the only county in the state out of 62 that chooses not to avail itself of “Continuum of Care” money, which is available through the state from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The idea behind Continuum of Care is to encourage and support local agencies in coordinating efforts to address housing and other issues for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless.
The governments that participate in the program create an annual plan to identify the needs of the local homeless population and the resources available to help them. The money includes help for rapid rehousing and for rental vouchers.
But despite the figures showing a large homeless population in the county, supervisors have not been motivated to do more to address it.
During a presentation to supervisors earlier this month from the commissioner of its own Department of Social Services, supervisors were told that the county last year had 502 homeless households, representing 547 adults and 110 children.
These aren’t vagabonds coming into the community from elsewhere to take local government handouts; they’re Fulton County’s own citizens.
The commissioner reported that three-quarters of those who identified themselves as homeless, 410 households, listed Fulton County as their last permanent residence. Supervisors who fear attracting more poor people to an already poor county are being misleading.
Last year, county Social Services provided housing for about 117 families. And many others are not visible because they move from family to family for shelter, a practice known as“couch surfing.”
County supervisors need to rethink their opposition to the Continuum of Care program and give serious considerations to the benefits of this program, which includes helping reduce the cycle of homelessness, unsafe housing and other long-term problems associated with perpetual homelessness.
If participation can help supervisors better address the county’s homeless population, then they’d be derelict in their duty as public servants not to revisit participation and give it full consideration.