Over the last several months, Salem city and police officials, in concert with representatives from Lifebridge, North Shore Community Health Center, North Shore Community Action Program, and the regional Workforce Investment Board have been exploring strategies to address the growing transient homeless population in and around Salem. While Salem has been a regional leader in providing shelter and supportive housing options for homeless individuals, there is still a shortage of available housing units, as well as supportive services necessary to keep individuals off the streets long term.
Some people who are homeless struggle with serious health, mental health or addiction disabilities that interfere with their ability to hold employment. In addition, many homeless people have education deficits, limited job skills, or gaps in their work history that make it difficult for them to obtain living wage employment. Thus, most people who are homeless not only need housing, but access to services to foster ongoing housing stability, improved health and maximum self-sufficiency.
The coalition has been working toward a strategy that would not abandon one of the community’s most vulnerable populations, but would also recognize and address some of the nuisance-like behavior of homeless individuals in and around public spaces in Salem. The group has been working on building opportunities to connect our homeless population to services, while also enforcing local laws and increasing police visibility and walking beats in and around the downtown and areas where the homeless congregate.
The coalition is putting together a plan to provide additional case workers and community outreach services to the homeless population in Salem and will be implementing a jobs component that will connect those willing and able members of the transient population to work as day laborers.
Salem is a compassionate community and transient panhandlers report bringing in upwards of $200 or more per day. Unfortunately, too often these dollars are used to support behaviors that lead to nuisances in public spaces. The final piece of the plan consists of a public education campaign that will alert residents and visitors to this concern and identify an alternative giving strategy to help support services for Salem’s transient population.
Because it is important to involve residents, business owners, community groups, as well as homeless individuals and families in a conversation about what the community can do collectively to address the issue of homelessness, all are invited to participate in a public dialogue on this issue on Thursday, July 27, 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Hall, 160 Derby Street in Salem.