“How do we solve the homelessness problem?” It’s a question that, given enough time, finds its way into almost every discussion about Highland, other local cities and the state, no matter the initial topic.

A few weeks ago water was being released into Santa Ana River from Seven Oaks Dam. This led to deputies assisting flood control personnel in spreading the news to the homeless living in the riverbed, warning them to move to higher ground.

More recently this paper printed a city press release on a project designed to connect Highland and Redlands with Class 1 bikeways so riders can cross the river going to and from school and work along Orange Street.

This led to online discussions in which several parents voiced the opinion that they would not feel safe sending their children through an area populated by transients. Others, not realizing that the project is funded by grants that can only be awarded for alternative transportation projects, said the city should be spending the money fixing roads or solving the homelessness problem.

Residents, elected officials and first responders have all had ideas to help but, so far, none has been the complete answer.

Unfortunately some ideas are making other efforts more difficult.

Law enforcement agencies, charged with guarding public safety, spend much of their time answering complaints and concerns from residents relating to transients and their actions.

The challenge is helping those who are genuinely in need without enabling those who choose that lifestyle.

Some, out of kindness, donate food, clothes and even tents to the homeless. While this can be a real blessing to those in dire need it can also support people continuing to live a lifestyle that makes them a burden on the community. This is why the city and sheriff’s department recommends that people give contact information for homeless services organizations rather than money.

This newspaper has reported on the homeless many times and has even accompanied nonprofits, city staff and sheriff’s deputies as they contact and offer assistance to the homeless.

Fortunately, in many cases those who want to get off the streets and are willing to accept assistance do not spend much time on the streets, thanks to these efforts.

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