Silently headlining the discussion on local homelessness is a single topic that we as a collective body have failed to properly address. Funding, information dissemination, land, and other issues are important topics, but they should not be the front line of a collective discussion – in reality, these are all symptoms of a root cause. The root of many of our challenges in response efforts is, simply put, a lack of coordination.
Many efforts have been made over the years to unite services under one simple model, most recently with ARCH, but the evidence is clear that we have not united as intended. Instead of moving as a coordinated team, local organizations and the city individually pursue our goals, meeting occasionally, such as in the Johnson City Joint Task Force (whose measure of success depends on who you ask). Many services overlap and many gaps in care present themselves due to this ‘tangle of services’ as opposed to a well-threaded safety net.
Couple this fact with the city’s unique position – the city’s relationship with nonprofits is at a very low point, perhaps an all-time low. The city’s optics on homelessness cooperation are equally low.
Taking this climate into account, I have a proposal that will shift us to a more coordinated playing field, rebuild trust between the city and our local organizations, and of course publicly show our teamwork throughout the process. My proposal is the creation of a new position within our Municipality – a position known as Aid Procurement Coordinator, or City Liaison.
- Liaison: The first goal of the APC will be to serve as the communications point between the city and local nonprofits. This individual should develop an intimate understanding of the operations and needs of all area nonprofits. In coordination with area organizations and the City Commission, the liaison will play a critical role in drafting potential long-term city response and involvement in any community efforts.
- Aid Procurement: The second goal of the APC will be to serve as a donation checkpoint between local businesses and local nonprofits. As an official with an intimate understanding of the needs of area nonprofits, the APC will be uniquely qualified to solicit and coordinate potential donations and discounted services from local businesses seeking to donate. This, of course, does not replace the need for individuals to donate to their local nonprofits; rather, this will give area organizations a long-term advocate in the local business sector.
With a city representative in the mix, we can keep a finger to the pulse of response efforts and coordinate aid where it is most effective without forcing compromise or infringing on the independence of our area’s diverse nonprofit organizations.