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Basic needs must be met first

The recent editorial “Homelessness not always about housing” opens a long-needed conversation. The city and county both approved the 2020 Durango-La Plata County Strategic Plan on Homelessness, designed to balance survival needs of unhoused persons, while maintaining public safety for our community. These two issues can be solved simultaneously.

This plan recommends a managed camp, quite different from tents for the 416 Fire and the unmanaged Purple Cliffs camp. Managed-camp residents are interviewed and agree to policies of conduct. An opaque perimeter fence with guarded entry would surround a specified number of residents, who would have individual sleeping places and indoor showers/restrooms.

In “The Hundred Story Home: A Memoir of Finding Faith in Ourselves and Something Bigger,” Kathy Izard writes to imagine life after an ice storm: no electricity, heat, phone service. When you spend all day figuring out your survival, then someone wants to discuss your IRA, you wouldn’t be able to listen. The Housing First solution, which could also apply to this managed camp, recognizes that a person is best able to make positive life changes after survival needs are met. Izard's book has accounts of people who made significant progress after receiving a safe, warm sleeping place with sanitary facilities.

Our economy and civilization work best when we allow people to live to their highest and best purpose. Can we afford to lose those who work for basic wages to a downward spiral of eviction, addiction and hypothermia, with no hope of self-sufficiency?

Carolyn A. Hunter