Homelessness to be discussed at forum Monday

The Whidbey Homeless Coalition is inviting the public to join its “community conversation on homelessness” from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Monday April 23 at the Oak Harbor Senior Center.

“It’s not going to be statistics and things, it’s more to engage people in their own understanding and their own thinking and activate their interest and engagement in the issue of homelessness,” said Faith Wilder, president of the homeless coalition. “We will have information about demographics and issues, but it’s really meant to be a personal exploration of the topic.”

The evening will start with an introductory framework and some information, “to stir people’s thinking,” Wilder said. People will then be split into different tables to discuss three questions. All of the tables will have the same questions and at the end the thoughts of each group will be shared.

“We’ll get a sense of how people internally understand the issue or not,” Wilder said. “There’s always surprises that come up in how many different ways the three questions can be answered.”

Wilder said the focus of the evening will mostly be for people to consider how they think about the issue of homelessness and how to help end it in the community. However, she said the meeting will also seek to dispel some misconceptions the public may have.

“We often hear that to do anything about the homeless will only attract more homeless people,” she said. “As it turns out, we operate shelters, and over 90 percent of the people we serve are from Whidbey Island.”

The homeless coalition has had six similar forums in the past year, but this is the first one to be held in the evening. Wilder said the goal is to get more of the community involved in the conversation.

“We feel that with the issues of homelessness that have become more apparent in the Whidbey community, it’s important that we come together as a community to understand what the issue is and how each of us can contribute to ending it.”

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