In May of 2020, officials in Santa Rosa, Calif., were frantically debating how to keep Covid-19 from infiltrating the city’s homeless encampments. The then mayor decided on a plan to pitch dozens of tents in a parking lot of a community center in an affluent neighborhood; neighbors protested loudly but the city moved ahead with the plan anyway. The city carefully managed the site, ensuring trash was picked up and had officers patrolling the neighborhood. A strange thing happened not too long after. Residents stopped protesting and started dropping off donations of food, clothing and hand sanitizer. The city’s experiment suggests a way forward for other areas experiencing similar problems: rather than spending months in paralyzing conversations with neighbors, leaders should embrace solutions and then implement them responsibly.

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