By Laura Christman

Tackling homelessness in Redding will require compassion, collaboration and champions, Lloyd Pendleton told a packed auditorium in Redding Feb. 11.

“Let’s get over this idea of ‘those people,’” said Pendleton, a key player in dramatically dropping the rate of chronic homelessness in Utah.

Don’t judge or condemn the homeless, he stressed at a community forum presented by The Women’s Fund of the Shasta Regional Community Foundation in partnership with the Record Searchlight and Shasta Community Health Center. Pendleton said people without homes are still people – citizens of the community “who are suffering and in need of hope.”

Thursday’s event at Sequoia Middle School was the 16th community forum sponsored by The Women’s Fund and the best attended. The 774-person-capacity McLaughlin Auditorium was nearly filled. Women’s Fund Chairwoman Denise Yergenson described the forum as a success, praising Pendleton for being inspiring and informative.

“The audience was so engaged,” she said. “We collected a two-inch stack of cards with comments, questions and concerns.”

Pendleton held management positions at Ford Motor Co. and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Welfare Department, and was director of Utah’s Homeless Task Force. He’s an advocate for Housing First, a strategy that offers homes and hope to the homeless.

Forum4The homeless don’t have to quit drugs or alcohol, find a job or otherwise get their act together in order to get a place to live.

“You end homelessness by putting people into housing. It’s pretty basic,” Pendleton said.

Having a home clears chaos that gets in the way of dealing with serious issues, he said. The approach is less expensive than the medical, law enforcement and other costs a community pays for people living on the streets, Pendleton said.

Dream big, Pendleton told the crowd. Come up with an audacious goal of what you want your community to be.

“There will be resistance. There will be conflict,” he said.

But that’s OK. It’s how change happens.

“You have good assets here,” he said.

He invited Kristen Schreder, a founder of The Women’s Fund, to join him on the stage.

“When I go to a community and I find someone like Kristen, things will change,” he said.

Schreder, a member of the Redding City Council, has been independently working on the problem of homelessness. Pendleton called her one of the community’s champions.

Champions, he said, are those who “solve problems, not decry them.”

He praised the work of Good News Rescue Mission in Redding.

“Count your blessings. They are really good.”

Pendleton emphasized all who are homeless are not the same. Some are temporarily without a place to live; others may have been on the streets for years with serious addiction or mental health troubles. Homelessness hits families, youths and veterans.

Start with one segment, he suggested. “You can’t do everything at once.”

It’s important for political leaders, service providers, the faith community, funders and others to develop a common vision and then collaborate. But don’t just make a plan, take action, he urged. It can be done.

“You are here because you care,” he told the audience. “That’s huge.”

Yergenson expects The Women’s Fund to remain involved in the ongoing conversation for helping homeless citizens.

“I think we will continue to offer forums and opportunities to continue the movement in the right direction,” she said.

Click here for more on Pendleton’s talk.