There is a discussion taking place in our community.
It is happening on multiple levels. It is serious and it is timely.
The homeless issue in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley is not going away - not even close.
Over the years, a task force has led to an umbrella group called Home for Good, which has been incubated by the United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley.
There are many organizations in this community working to deal with the homeless issue: faith-based organizations, non-profit organizations and governmental agencies. Three weeks ago, more than 60 people from about two dozen public and private organizations and agencies gathered to discuss "Zero: 2016" - a national initiative focusing on homeless veterans and those who are considered chronically homeless.
The number of homeless souls in our community is a moving target. On Jan. 26, Home for Good led an effort to count the homeless population. That night - which was below freezing, by the way - 149 people slept unsheltered and another 135 slept in local shelters. The reasons they were there varied - mental illness, substance abuse, previous incarceration, loss of a job, you name it.
This city now has a way - in part through Zero: 2016 and Housing and Urban Development vouchers - for those who are homeless to deal with this issue in a direct and straight-forward manner.
Some people who have been dealing with issue for years strongly believe they know what is best. They might. But they might not.
If the people assisting those in the homeless community want a road map on how this is done, look to the arts organizations in this community. That sounds crazy, but that is where there is a blueprint for success.
Almost 20 years ago, the Columbus arts community was issued a challenge - it was called the Columbus Challenge. What it produced was more than $100 million to cultural agencies such as the Springer Opera House, Columbus Museum, Columbus Symphony, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Liberty Theatre, Historic Columbus Foundation and National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus.
There was a huge carrot for these agencies that had been doing their own thing to join forces for the Columbus Challenge. What was dangled in front of them was a $20 million match grant from the Bradley-Turner Foundation. The end gift from the foundation was $35 million.
There is no simple way to fix this issue, in part because every day brings a new crisis or a new face to these agencies that are just trying to meet the immediate needs of the moment -- whether they be as simple as getting someone a meal, a bed, a place to receive mail or medical attention.
There are good people - really good people - doing really good work on the streets of this city.
Now, think about how powerful that work would be if the players picked up their instruments and formed an orchestra.
Chuck Williams, senior reporter, firstname.lastname@example.org