Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A homeless-community resources kerfuffle

Logo of the Sacra- mento Resource Directory
IMPORTANT UPDATE: I AM DELIGHTED TO REPORT THAT VICTOR STARK'S PETITION AND PERHAPS MUCH OF WHAT I WROTE WAS JUST FLAT DEAD WRONG.

ALAN LANGE, THE ACTING PRESIDENT AND CEO OF COMMUNITY LINK INFORMS ME THAT THEY DO GIVE FREE COPIES OF THEIR COMMUNITY SERVICES DIRECTORY TO HOMELESS PEOPLE. THEY CHARGE OTHERS FOR THE BOOK. ALL IS WELL.  THERE WAS NEVER, REALLY, ANY KERFUFFLE, or basis for it, anyway.

Following is what Alan Lange emailed to me:

1)      We do maintain a supply of the full, printed directory that we distribute for free to individuals that express economic hardship.  This was obviously miscommunicated in the interaction that Mr. Stark had with our staff, which we have addressed.  Additionally, all of the information in our resource directory is available and accessible to the public at no cost through (1) the 2-1-1 call center and (2) our online database.  We also make available pre-printed copies of directories associated with specific service areas at no cost.
2)      For the general public, service providers, and other agencies, we do charge a fee for our resource directory (with exceptions made on a case by case basis, as noted above).  The cost we charge to purchase the printed resource directory goes directly to offset the actual costs of publishing and printing the directory.  We do not receive any grant funding or contract funds to print the directory.

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Victor Stark -- who administers the One Father’s Love website and a resource collection at that site titled The Sacramento Resource Directory -- is fit to be tied, angry at Community Link, the outfit that provides information to Sacramentans at the 211 phone number. Stark has launched a petition drive, through change.org, to serve as a display of Sacramento citizens’ anger that Community Link won’t provide their book, titled the Community Services Directory, free, to any Sacramento homeless person who asks for it.

Stark sounds reasonable until you find out that the Community Link book is 426 pages long and gets updated regularly.  Its latest edition is the 57th.  Rather obviously, a book that big that is frequently updated is a substantial, costly task to maintain and publish for Community Link. Also, obviously, it is a compendium of a vast array of services, well beyond the
Cover of the current Community Services Directory.
scope of that of just homeless folk. At the 211 website the Services Directory is described as "listing over 1700 health and human community resource sites for Sacramento County."  We are told that in the book each Agency shows "many of the Programs they operate. Each Program fully describes the services they offer."

The book isn't a simple list of service.  It is Godzilla compared to the compilation of services Stark has collected at his website, or what can be found on the Street Sheet [that Francis House publishes] or on a back page in every edition of the Homeward Street Journal that is published bimonthly, or what Union Gospel Mission has now begun to collect and provide at its website.  The book is vast; it is encyclopedic.  It is, I am sorry to say, not something it is reasonable to suppose should be free to people who cannot, individually, utilize the mountain of information it offers.  The cost-benefit calculation would be totally out-of-whack.  What DOES make sense is for homeless-service providers to get a copy of the book [which THEY can get for free, thanks to Community Link] and then allow homeless persons to get into it to look for information from the homeless-service providers' offices.

Maybe one day soon, since we are now in the amazing 21st Century, everyone will have a tablet of some sort always on them that connects to an Internet available everywhere that allows research in a digital, always-fully-up-to-date version of the Community Services Directory.

Yep.  I'm with you, Victor, in your quest to make important information handy for those who need it. I think -- as a community, as a city, as a county, as a country, as a world -- we're getting there.

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