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By Paul Ainslie, President, SVdP Indy

My background before coming to this role was in engineering and science. Much of my work was in complex topics as different as integrated circuits and educational outcomes. These are complex problems to address, and solutions usually involve estimates, trade-offs and simply ignoring factors we cannot address. I’ve recently learned that such complex problems are called “wicked problems,” not as a lighthearted classification but rather an acknowledgement of just how unattainable exact solutions can be.

This idea of wicked problems fits remarkably well with the problems we see every day in our SVdP work. Consider homelessness, for example. Each week, more than 200 unsheltered individuals come to our Wednesday and Saturday outreach events. They leave with a warm meal, personal hygiene items and maybe some socks or even shoes. This will be enough for a few days or possibly a week, but we will see them again soon–because we really haven’t solved their problem, only addressed the symptoms.

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Homelessness is a global problem with as many causes as there are homeless individuals. The root causes have to do with lack of transportation, low wages, social injustice, inadequate educational opportunities, destitute neighborhoods, political barriers and so on. Addressing just one of these causes can take more energy and resources than most organizations have. Solving all the myriad of sources for homelessness, just in Indianapolis, remains only a dream for us.

So we do what we can. We offer warm meals for the unsheltered, food for the hungry, clothes for those who need them, and hope for those in despair. Over the past decade, we’ve evolved our efforts to begin addressing some of the more systemic issues. We’ve made some in-roads with our Changing Lives Forever (CLF) programs, which is focused on helping participants gain the life and job skills necessary to overcome poverty and find a more sustainable path for living. CLF has lifted many neighbors, including unsheltered ones, out of poverty and into a new beginning. It’s worth noting that this program is successful in part because of the many volunteer facilitators as well as our partnerships with other community organizations, such as the John Boner Neighborhood Centers.

Buoyed by progress in this area, we began praying about how to further address systemic issues and provide an even more comprehensive program to address the wicked problem of homelessness. Our new Love Your Neighbor Center (LYNC) is the answer to our prayer. Building on CLF and our experiences with the unsheltered, we believe we can begin to solve the complex problems that affect hundreds in our area. We may not have a total solution, but LYNC is a meaningful way we can help unsheltered neighbors find solid footing and find their pathway out of homelessness. It’s a launching pad to a new beginning.