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Forum sheds light on solutions and challenges for homelessness

Throughout the month of April, the Washington State University Vancouver’s Initiative for Public Deliberation hosted several events in Clark and Cowlitz counties inviting members of the community to engage in dialogue surrounding issues regarding homelessness in the southwest Washington area. IPD’s main purpose in hosting the forums was to create an open environment in which both small and large group discussions allowed participants to ask questions and voice their concerns about homelessness.

Community members actively shared their input in addressing issues such as affordable housing, food insecurity, and health care while proposing solutions focusing on the problems that arise without having a home. In total, there were five discussions that took place and all were free to the public. Event organizers said that in order to create an impartial discussion free from bias, the program refrained from advocating for specific policies, and instead allowed the community to voice their own opinions.

Zachary Johnson, research associate for the IPD, shared some background on how the program originally started. According to Johnson, the program formed “as a partnership between Washington State University Vancouver and the Foley Institute and has been around since Spring 2015.” Johnson went on further to explain the unique approach and process of the IPD’s forums. Students of WSU Vancouver are granted annual opportunities to facilitate these forums by enrolling in a political science course. “Selected past students become research associates for IPD, working to run the forums, attend conferences, do research, and train new facilitators,” Johnson said.

Although the series of forums on homelessness have come to a close, the IPD plans to host several more forums later in the year. Carolyn Long, director of IPD, and Ellen Rogers, associate director of IPD, plan to continue the program’s goals “to strengthen democratic government” by inviting the community at large to engage and further the process of honest and open dialogue.

To learn more about the forums or the Initiative for Public Deliberation, visit the IPD website at https://admin.vancouver.wsu.edu/ipd or the IPD Facebook page.

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