As did most of you, I woke up this morning in my own bed, got up, took a shower and went in our kitchen to decide what I would have for breakfast. Many in our community do not share our good fortune.
Homelessness is a varied and complicated issue. It involves abandoned, addicted, abused, rejected, mentally ill and all sorts of Catch-22 people. Men, women and children of many ethnic groups are part of that population locally.
Being male and thinking I can fix things, as I tend to see things as black or white, I agreed to serve on the board of directors at StreetReach several years ago. I soon discovered that more things seem to have no answer. Such as, why do people choose to keep being in an abusive situation after they have experienced "normalcy" for a short period?
There are a number of agencies in our area that serve the needs of the homeless. All have well-meaning boards and competent staffs. Most serve a niche of the homeless population. Most of them serve their clientele with love and compassion. Most of them are doing exactly what they have done, the same way they have done it, for many years.
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I have been asked by several people what my vision for StreetReach is. My vision is bigger than just StreetReach and goes like this. StreetReach, Helping Hand, Community Kitchen, Center for Women & Children, Haven House, CASA, Meals on Wheels of Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach and the Methodist Church Clothes Closet should become one entity, with one director and one set of accounting.
We are all serving the same people. All of our mission statements say something about serving those in need.
Given the current economic climate, collaboration is imperative. If we all join together and share resources in lieu of competing for them, we will be looked at much more favorably by big donors and foundations.
StreetReach and the Community Kitchen both have commercial kitchens. One should be a training facility giving some homeless people jobs preparing the meals that Meals on Wheels delivers. They could also do small catering jobs.
There is a 10,000-square-foot vacant space in the upstairs of the StreetReach facility that could be used for day activities, showers, laundry, education, etc. That is a need that is presently not covered by an existing entity.
By combining all these entities, you would eliminate at least three vehicles and six annual audits at $6,000 to $8,000 each. Those two items alone would put $60,000 or $70,000 back in the combined effort. Key personnel would then be answerable to the director of the combined effort. Instead of seven or eight boards, there would be one consisting of the top folks from each previous board.
The centerpiece of this puzzle would be that any person receiving the services of any of these missions would be required to have an ID card that would be issued at what is now Helping Hand. There is a computerized service already in place in all the agencies to make this work. No ID, no service.
An anonymous donation has been made in memory of my dad, A.E. Jackson Jr., to establish this new position or entity. He was an astute businessman and really opposed duplication and waste. He would greatly appreciate the unity of focus this would ultimately bring.
There is only one reason this won't work. It's one of the seven deadly sins: pride.
The writer is chairman of the StreetReach board of directors.