Re: “An end to tent encampments” [Jan. 31, Opinion]:

Liberals need to admit homeless encampments are not an issue of personal freedom, and conservatives need to admit the solutions cost money. Homelessness is a cocktail of personal challenges, public failures, family disintegration, addiction and mental-health issues, coupled with a lack of affordable housing and underemployment. It is not a choice to live houseless — it is actually a lack of choices.

For 27 years, I worked for a street outreach organization that received no public money, but we were deeply dependent on partners who were publicly funded to provide the comprehensive services needed for those young people to leave the street psychologically as well as physically.

It takes mental-health specialists, chemical-dependency counselors, housing advocates and churches all working together to care for those on the margins, a collaboration of public and private partners. These “experts,” along with the voices of people experiencing street life, must be our teachers and guides. We cannot eliminate homelessness, but we can alleviate the challenges that cause folks to see the streets as their only alternative. We do this by financially investing in services that address the causes that get people stuck.

It will cost all of us something but we cannot afford the alternative.

Ron Ruthruff, D.Min, associate professor of theology and culture, The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology