We know we have a huge problem on our hands in Sonoma County related to homelessness.
We’ve shown that 10s of millions of dollars are spent yearly with virtually no improvement.
We’ve shown that people who need help are not being served adequately.
We’ve shown that a small percentage of people are responsible for the majority of crimes and problems that are visible in public areas.
There’s a tremendous drain on our first responders related to this issue.
We can’t police our way out of it and we can’t spend our way out of it.
So what DO we do?
We need more public/private partnerships.
Currently we’re handcuffed by low barrier “housing first” mandates in order to receive funding from HUD and the State. We only get the funding for “evidence-based” practices. Our pool of potential funding can be expanded if we included private sources. There is absolutely no reason we have to have funding go through the CDC.
We should have a dedicated homeless services dept with new private employees, a business analyst, strong program management, a communications/pr person, and staffed with subject matter experts.
Furthermore, the poor tracking and metrics with virtually no accountability would not be tolerated when private funding is utilized. They would demand much more transparency and accountability. Accountability has been one of CAN’s issues from day one.
We must have better information than just self-reported data.
We make policy decisions and allocate limited resources off of self-reported data in a survey of people with no ID or verification.
With limited resources we have to prioritize those we serve. The elderly, veterans, underage youth alone, single parent families who can also verify they are residents must get priority. Why give 10 cents to everyone and barely make a dent when we can give a dollar to each and make more of an impact?
Those who cannot demonstrate or prove that they are residents should receive transportation back to their home town where they can get back into their family and friend’s support network and utilize the system of care where they are from.
In order to receive in-state tuition rates at a community college or university, you must prove residency.
Some County programs require ID and residency to receive help.
These types of requirements aren’t exclusionary but necessary.
It’s not a secret among service providers and first responders that people find their way to a location known for a compassionate populace with abundant services and pleasant weather. That’s not conjecture.
Higher barrier programs WORK.
It’s no accident that programs provided by local non-profits that have higher barriers-rules, requirements for being sober and drug free, mandatory participation in some cases, accountability, etc have track records of success.
Redwood Gospel Mission, Community Support Network, and more.
We feel that these programs should receive more attention, support, and most importantly funding. More of the federal and state funds should be funneled to them. Again, the reason why they are not is the low barrier mandates. And again the reason we need a public/private partnership.
These non profits have beds available, and have the entire time this crisis escalated.
It’s been well documented that people living rough outside have repeatedly denied offers of services and shelter. The reason why is they do not want to abide by any rules.
We have never once read or heard a service provider or politician mention a work program for able bodied individuals. Of course the reason why is it wouldn’t be low barrier.
Single, able-bodied people can participate in a work program that gives them a job doing some sort of beautification of public spaces or working in a soup kitchen in exchange for taxpayer services and shelter. They must participate in their improvement. They’ll receive life skills and job training, retain some measure of dignity by being a productive member of society, and give them hope that there is support for them to continue an upward path. Everyone can get behind such a program.
When we or anyone say the word “homeless”, we have to all agree on the definition and what specific population we’re talking about.
There are three types of homeless.
The “CANNOTS” who are mentally ill or disabled. These comprise about 15 percent of the homeless.
These are folks who cannot help themselves and can’t make the right decisions for themselves. It is inhumane to allow them to wallow outside. This is where we need to carefully examine conservatorships, revision of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, and not pay lip service to mental health but shift funding from some of the wasteful programs.
Then there are the “HAVE NOTS” who could succeed if they were trained to acquire new skills and had access to services. These have-nots are about 42 percent of the homeless. This is where a work program of some sort and attention to life skills and job training come into play.
The third group are the “WILL NOTS” who do not want to change. Most of these are drug addicts or alcoholics. These are the most problematic of the three and the ones locally who are “service resistant”. Most don’t want the help and would rather spend their days outside doing what they want. Many people conflate this group with the other two and misunderstand the intention of CAN! thinking all we care about is enforcing the law for people who do not want to follow the law.
We want the conversation to continue regarding how to address this problem.