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Almost everyone can relate to a busy life in which a multitude of issues demand immediate attention and resolution. In some cases, problems may seem so large and complex that perceived solutions are overwhelming. With a limited amount of time and resources, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to satisfy all challenges at once.

Prioritizing becomes essential for the application of efficient solutions and preserving personal sanity. As a consequence, some issues, while immediate and important, are relegated to a position of benign neglect until an opportunity arises to address them. This attitude is beneficial in some situations when a problem faced proves to be minor and self-correcting. For instance, a runny nose and sniffles may run its course without serious medical intervention except for over-the-counter symptom management. However, the same cannot be said for Covid-19. While contracting the virus may not require hospitalization, medical supervision and intervention is indicated.

The danger inherent in a laissez-faire approach is when major issues remain as a low priority or stimulate only partial or long-term solutions without addressing immediate conditions. The conundrum is to balance a plethora of needs, desires and critical resources to confront a particular problem.

As difficult as personal circumstances can be, responsibility for large groups of individuals and families compound challenges and complexity. As a society, we have formed government entities to address and solve these issues. For common welfare and security, we elect leaders, who work with their staff, to address societal problems and not only develop solutions, but act on them to minimize community disruption; the former is useless without the latter.

A major and ubiquitous topic facing our communities is the high cost of living and subsequent challenge of housing. The plight of homeless individuals and families is high on the priority list of governmental agencies, but many programs focus on long term solutions for a relatively small group. Evidence of this shortfall can be seen in tent encampments that dot the landscape. This is a practical solution for many who are unable to enter limited low-income housing. While programs to support the homeless should be applauded and supported, initiatives to find and support locations for tents or other alternatives is proceeding at a slow pace. In the absence of safe and sanctioned locations, tent cities often spring up in a helter-skelter fashion.

One such location is in an open field behind the Fremont Main Library. The land is vacant and serves little purpose at the present time, so the vacuum has been filled by necessity. While not the best visual use of the property, it is a valid use and fills a current and urgent need. Instead of benign neglect from the city, it might be a good idea to support this effort by homeless individuals by providing minimal on-site services. Protection and health elements such as a fence, port-a-potties to relieve pressure on library facilities and visiting health services would, at least, provide temporary relief of an immediate need. If a site is designated, others in unsanctioned areas could be encouraged to move to it and relieve pressure on other public places.

Although this may not be a popular choice for those living or working in the vicinity of a designated encampment, the alternative is a constantly shifting, fluid caravan of desperate people who, for the most part, want to survive in peace and security.

We need to recognize that the issue of homelessness is a major systemic problem in our society that involves fellow human beings. For a variety of reasons, these people have fallen on hard times. In this society, dedicated in a Declaration of Independence, our forefathers proclaimed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Will we honor their commitment?