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Homelessness in Trinidad; a conundrum that avoids a solution

by Bill Knowles
TRINIDAD — The issue of homelessness presents a conundrum to the City of Trinidad, as a whole, to both the elected leadership and to residents. The conundrum is how best to deal with the problem and still be humane so that the other things that have to be accomplished can be done.
“I think that we all have a humanistic responsibility to care for each other and those who are in need,” Anthony Mattie said.  “We have a responsibility to concern ourselves with the wellbeing of other humans.  And the needs are many.”
The help may involve a handout. But that can become a problem when it encompasses generations. “We also have a responsibility to protect ourselves,” said Mattie. “And the people of Trinidad along with the elected officials should help but they must ensure that they aren’t taken advantage of.”
The answers to dealing with a homeless population are hard to come by.  Many cities are currently caught up in a problem that at times seems overwhelming. Funding is an issue that sits squarely at the center of the issue nationwide,  and Trinidad is no different.
Many have suggested that the marijuana tax revenues be used to alleviate the problem. But Mattie says that those funds may last another three years or so and then the bubble will begin to deflate as more states legalize recreational cannabis.  And it has been a policy of the current city administration to use those funds for one-time purchases or as grant funding to the non-profits. The city has avoided using the tax funds for setting up permanent budget items such as creating new jobs or establishing shelters for the homeless.
“We need to tread cautiously, deliberately, and with intent in stepping into the direction of the things we are trying to do and acting with broad based knowledge about what we’re doing and what our expectations are,” Mattie said.
According to Mattie, there has been a great deal of enthusiasm by a large number of people saying this, extending help to the homeless, is the thing to do. But it will require an investment of city’s resources in something that may not be in the best interest of the community. “We need to be cautious to avoid being taken advantage of,” Mattie noted.
“If we are going to enter into a project, and I don’t know enough about transitional housing, but if we are going to enter a project involving transitional housing it needs to purposeful. It needs to be directed, it needs to be goal oriented. It needs to not concern itself with warehousing people for as long as they’re able to take advantage of that.
“Instead we need to provide direction, we need to provide resources.  We need to provide healthcare and chemical dependency rehabilitation. If people truly need help we should do that. But to provide all those programs folks are going to need is not going to be cheap.
“And by building a facility do we create a circumstance where we become a magnet for people who are scammers?”