Immediate housing for the homeless
We contacted surrounding motels on PCH and elsewhere and gave them contracts for service with gigantic security deposits for rehab of the units after the Homeless were transferred out to transitional housing.
We made sure that a daily contact was made with free transport to services every day with a contact person. Free transport back at night after meals.
Stabilizing the population is a difficult thing to do
Those who were drug-addicted we sent to free substance abuse clinics, like the Substance Abuse Foundation on 7th St. Dr. Banner was a great supporter. Continued meetings with NA.
Those who were addicted to Alcohol were similarly directed with continue meetings at AA. We applied to the federal government for funds to support this rehabilitation. The County also had funds available for us.
There were mandatory courses regarding domestic violence and the like.
We had Mental health workers from the Health Department, whose director Diana Bonta was an extraordinary person, and has risen to high office by now. Those in most need were transported to the Health Department for more intensive work. Almost all the homeless population if not all needed some sort of mental health component, as living on the streets will impact the most grounded person. Finding a way back is hard and takes some time.
We had courses designed just to teach how to pay a bill, how to pay the rent, how to clean the house, how to keep appointments. All supervised.
Obviously, we had to hire more social service workers to make this plan work.
This is a big component of the solution.
I believe it was Betsy Bredau who brought to our attention a little-remembered law from the 1940s, The McKinney Act. That is a law that stated, “Any military housing once abandoned must be given to the homeless before any other usage”. WOOOOW.
The naval base had just closed, as had the shipyards. We had all this housing at Cabrillo that was vacant. Our City Staff helped us write a grant to the Federal Government, and we received $135 Million dollars from the Feds to rehab Cabrillo. Today that is called the Villages at Cabrillo and is still housing community, serving first women with children.
That was a huge win. But we also got all our homeless population signed up for HUD housing. On the first contact, we signed them up, as it took so long to get the vouchers. Our Housing Authority worked with us to find housing, and it was a big success. We reformed the Section 8 housing program to make it more appealing to landlords (worried about the destruction of property, etc.) and we ended up with the highest voucher numbers in the history of the City. Several Landlords and Managers were instrumental in opening their places to our new clients. Clive Graham was one of the best. He was especially known for taking in the disabled and affording them the care and transport required.
After doing all this outreach, we found landlords willing to rent units on a yearly basis with guarantees from our Housing Authority. The former homeless still had a continuum of care with site visits, and reviews on bill paying, cleanliness, mental health issues, and anger issues.
The only component we did not systematically address was the issue of jobs. Independently I hired the homeless for my cleaning company. I paid them good wages and supervised them primarily on outside cleaning projects throughout the City. I also gave housing to the formerly homeless and hooked them up with the services required. So many of our people did the same. It is clear today that we need a REAL source of Jobs. So I propose we create a company, called Cleanscapes. This company will clean the alleys, the sidewalks, the parks, the beaches, the freeway entrances, underpasses, and schoolyards. Under strict supervision and with the agreement of Cal Trans, and the County we can produce a profitable company that services our entire community. Picking up sofas and disposed of beds and furniture is a big job. Hauling away junk can be a profitable enterprise. With weekly pay, and with a supervised bank account (held in trust by social services) we can assist our homeless population into a fully integrated place in community again.
There is nothing like the dignity of work to warm the heart and restore the soul. We took a population of 30,000 homeless down to 3000. We do not need to re-invent this wheel. We have done this before.
The State was challenged by the ACLU asserting we didn’t have the right to pick up the homeless. ( remember we used to throw them in jail for 72 hours but now we were assisting them to integrate)
Nonetheless, we had a new problem. I believe the ACLU in their misguided determination was wrong. I believe it is the duty and responsibility of the government to care for those who cannot care for themselves. I believe the ACLU was wrong and did not think through the consequences of their position, which led to the grief and suffering of our most vulnerable population.
That being said, the Courts determined that we needed to have the same number of beds available as we had a homeless count. At the time we did not, as we knew we were going to transition people as quickly as possible to other more permanent housing. And we knew there would be some recidivism.
So our challenge today to have the beds. Our recent homeless count was 2995. (which is completely false, but we will go into that later) Let’s use that number. If that is our goal, then let us sign a contract with the Armory on 7th and Alamitos to use their operational beds. This may bring us into compliance.
The disfunction now is that since we have not committed to having those entry beds, our police officers assigned to the homeless. ( 8 with salaries in the range of 85,000) cannot pick up anyone, unless they cross the line of violence. All they can do is talk. Although interesting this is a waste of manpower and resources that we would more logically use to get the beds required.
Once we have this piece of the puzzle handled we can restore the system we had in place and solve this issue.
P.S I do not want to see one more salary raise for our city employees handling the homeless until real solutions are on the table and accomplished. I do not want to see one more dime spend on “Interior decoration of the Multi-Service Center for the Homeless. I found it an insult that the City spent millions on redecoration, new asphalt, new parking lot, new computers, offices, office enclosures, etc. while telling us they didn’t have the money to get those beds. This is hypocrisy at its worst. And I found the Center virtually vacant of workers, and no they were not out in the field nor at lunch. I spent 2 days tracking the situation, and they were simply not present, which indicates if we did hire folks, they are not working, but most likely we just didn’t have the workers to fill all of the cubicles they created. The excuse finally was that the cubicles were for county workers. When I called the County they had not heard of such an arrangement.
We need all services relating to the homeless to be 24/7. As I clean Rotary Park every month, we see the same homeless population. We clean on Saturdays, and there are no people working. Homelessness is not a Monday through Friday issue. We had to come back on Tuesday or Wednesday to try to service these folks. Unfortunately, no matter how many appointments we made with the Multi-service outreach staff, No one showed up to assist. This kind of lack of response must end NOW. I understand it can be an intense job, but if you cannot get anyone, even with 3 day notice to show up, we are spinning our wheels. I would call for an audit of our existing Multi-service Center, and if we have folks not doing what they are supposed to do with a metric based accounting system, then we need to hire better, more responsive people.
This is a crisis, and we cannot afford inept, uncaring people to be in the middle of the process. It is far too important.
As a supplement to all of the above, we need outreach and somewhat of a triage center Downtown. The majority of our homeless population are near Downtown or on the beaches, and highway entrances. I propose setting aside land ( like at Pacific and 3rd St. ) for a temporary base. We can purchase steel tent structures to house our staff and triage experts. We can put immediate food, water, showers, and laundry in such a facility if desired.
Most importantly we need FREE transport more than once daily to the Multi-Service Center. No homeless person is able to walk all that distance, nor would they be able to find it as it is so well hidden from sight. Back and forth transport will be one of the most important aspects of our service. Solving the homeless problem is not glamorous nor is it a bright shiny object you can take photo-ops about. Yes, it is far more important than a million-dollar media wall in City Hall. It is my philosophy that we must always put people first. Decorations and fluff projects look pretty and make the elite feel better, but that is not the primary purpose of government. It is not about getting elected again, nor to a higher office. It is about service above self. If we do not have that righteous motto emblazoned on our hearts, we will never be able to solve the issue of Homelessness.
We must also demand a City-Wide Fiscal Audit. This is the only way to find the waste and over-spending in our budget, so we can have the resources to attend to this issue. Yes we can work with the County and the State and the Federal Government, and we did that before, but it will take a lot of local resources to make this program work. I propose this Audit result be public. If the City is not corrupt nor imbalanced in its spending they should have no problem showing the results to the people to ponder, evaluate and surmise a result. Oh My God. This would make City Hall transparent and accountable. What a horror for them.
I challenge every person in the City, every elected, every staff member, and every news outlet to Hold up this standard of service above self and get going on solving our homeless problem.
Yes, I am running for office. This issue takes a person who knows how to organize, console, cooperate, and coalition build. This is like creating a business, for at the end that is exactly what this is. We simply cannot have people overseeing this, or even advocating for this without the skillsets of an analytical, structured business mind. All the good intentions in the world will not be adequate.
I hope to earn your vote for the 2nd District Council Office.