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News / Clark County News

‘Gathering for Change’ event at Kiggins to highlight homeless solutions

Keynote speaker to discuss Houston's success

By Mia Ryder-Marks, Columbian staff reporter
Published: October 17, 2023, 6:45pm

Council for the Homeless invites community members to its “Gathering for Change: Solving Homelessness Together” event on Thursday at the Kiggins Theatre. The event will highlight solutions that alleviate homelessness.

“It is a blend of community education, fundraising and call to action,” said Charlene Welch, development and communications director for Council for the Homeless.

The event’s keynote speaker is Marc Eichenbaum, a special assistant to the mayor for homeless initiatives in Houston, Texas.

In 2011, Houston had one of the largest homeless populations in the United States. But by embracing a collaborative system, Eichenbaum said, the community has reduced homelessness by more than 60 percent, permanently housed more than 25,000 people and ended veteran homelessness in the last 11 years.

If You Go

What: “Gathering for Change: Solving Homelessness Together”

When: Thursday. Kiggins Theatre doors open at 4:30 p.m., with the program beginning at 5:30 p.m.; livestream pre-show begins at 5 p.m., with the program beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Where: Kiggins Theatre in downtown Vancouver, 1011 Main St.

Livestream: Broadcast live from the Kiggins Theatre; RSVP for virtual viewing to receive the livestream link. To participate virtually, visit www.councilforthehomeless.org/gatheringforchange.

Tickets: $125 per person and people also can register to watch the livestream of the event at no charge. Purchase tickets at Paybee.

During Thursday’s event, Eichenbaum will share the steps taken in Houston. He said Houston took notes from communities like Denver, Colo., to learn how to alleviate homelessness and amplify permanent housing needs. Now he travels across the nation to pass forward the lessons.

“We never believe that cities could carbon copy another city,” said Eichenbaum. “Each city is unique. However, there are some general themes and ideas and lessons that hopefully can be tailored and modified to fit the uniqueness of Vancouver.”

Thursday’s event will also showcase the voice of a person who has experienced homelessness in Clark County. Council for the Homeless client Geri will describe her journey from experiencing houselessness to her life now in permanent housing.

“People tend to see what’s in front of them,” executive director Sesany Fennie-Jones said. “They see the person sleeping on the street, the person underneath the bridge, the person in the encampment but when they don’t see the person anymore they don’t know what happens. Geri is a success story, and there are many, many Geris out there, that aren’t sleeping on the street anymore and they have found success, humanity and integrity in housing stability.”

Council for the Homeless intends for the event to shine a light on lessons learned from Houston and how it can inform local approaches to alleviating homelessness in Clark County.

“Houston ended homelessness and so can Vancouver,” said Eichenbaum. “Hopefully we will have really fruitful discussions on solutions that can set the stage for action.”

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.