Homelessness has been a prevalent concern in many counties and states. It’s a complex issue that does not have one simple solution. However, this doesn’t mean it can’t be solved. During the most recent CivicCon speaker series, Dr. Solotaroff, President & CEO of Central City Concern (CCC), shed some light on the issue and pointed out some ways to tackle homelessness. Her presentation was packed with data-driven strategies and inspiring stories from people who managed to turn their lives around through the programs at CCC.
Getting to Know Dr. Rachel Solotaroff
Dr. Rachel Solotaroff is the President and CEO of CCC. Since she started her work at CCC in 2006, she’s been working with women and men facing the dire effects of being homeless. As she provided primary care to itinerant people, she was able to gain a better understanding of this social cancer that’s been eating away the lives of many people in our society. Homelessness might be a complicated issue to solve, but there are indeed ways to help people out of it!
Dr. Solotaroff and Her Work at Central City Concern (CCC)
Dr. Solataroff’s data-based strategies were at the core of the success of CCC’s programs. Most importantly, it was really the tangible positive impact of CCC’s programs on the lives of participants that created ripples of change in the community.
“I believe doing things the right way is as important as doing the right thing,” she said. So, she and her team conducted a study on the primary drivers of homelessness. What they discovered formed the foundation of CCC’s approaches and programs.
It’s unfortunate that many people think homelessness as a result of an individual’s vices, irresponsibility, and other bad behavior, albeit understandably due to limited knowledge of the matter. In Portland, OR., people now know much better, thanks to Dr. Solotaroff and her team at CCC.
In many cases, being homeless is due to many factors that don’t have anything to do with the individual. Structural racism, lack of meaningful-wage employment, discrimination, and lack of affordable housing hinder people from being financially stable enough to afford a house.
CCC has produced tangible results due to its integrated “population pathways” approach. This method focused on the holistic recovery and wellbeing of the individual. It offers solutions for both the structural and individual factors that caused homelessness.
These are the four core aspects of their solution and why each matter to the individual:
Integrated Health Care – This aims to help homeless individuals get well. In a study conducted at Multnomah County in 2019, 78.7% of homeless people have at least 1 disabling condition.
Supportive & Affordable Housing – Many people who’ve recovered from their substance abuse issues often go home to the same neighborhood and encounter the same addiction triggers.
Income & Employment – The study done at Multnomah County (2019) showed that people of color were over-represented in the homeless population.
Positive Peer Relationship – Sometimes, people just need a person who’s been through their situation and managed to change the trajectory of their life. A positive example goes a long way!
Services and Programs
With this approach, Dr. Solotaroff’s team at CCC designed programs and services meant to support the recovering individual physically, mentally, and financially. Health services are indeed at the forefront. Notably, there are also programs that are culturally specific.
Flip the Script – A program that focuses on helping individuals break the cycle of lifestyle, environment, and habits that incarcerates people of color back again and again.
The Imani Center – This program focuses on assisting African American people with addiction and mental health concerns cope and recover from their situation.
Clean Start – True to its name, “Clean Start” is a program that gives people a fresh start just by keeping the neighborhood tidy. Follow up-skill courses are also available for those who want to advance in their career.
Central City Concern has been around since 1979. The trail of success and lives change due to its programs are evident. The process isn’t easy, according to Dr. Solotaroff, but the organization’s impact could be felt both on a community and individual level. That’s good enough to help the team wake up in the morning and get going, as is the case of LaToya, one of CCC’s medical assistants.
Since 1979, CCC has also seen countless participants in programs now able to live a better life. Some wonderful examples include current mentors Damieon, Laura and Ralph.
As Dr. Solotaroff said, the outcome of CCC’s integrated, holistic, and person-centric approach is deeply transformative for both the community and the individual. A contributing great factor of the organization’s success is collaboration. Amazing things could be achieved through partnerships and the right strategies!
Overall, Dr. Solotaroff’s presentation had been an enlightening and inspiring one. Like all other CivicCon events, her ideas are hopefully going to serve as inspiration for upcoming projects in Pensacola, particularly those that target homelessness.
Indeed, homelessness might be a huge social threat, but it is worth coming together to work toward a solution on, and investing our resources in. If we foster a community of collaboration, collective impact strategies, and promote a willing leadership in a community with open mind and open hearts, together we can achieve success and provide stable homes for all.