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A homeless encampment in Oceanside. Photo courtesy of Solutions for Change
Community CommentaryOpinion

Common-sense housing solutions for the homeless

By Daniel Hare

The State of California has a top-down mandate regarding housing for the “unhoused” called “Housing First.”

Proponents claim this is the first step toward recovery and is the “compassionate” way to deal with the roughly 161,000 people who live on our streets. Some studies estimate 75% of those living on the streets are either addicted or mentally ill.

A recent homeless clean-up effort in San Diego had some 180 “street residents” picked up trash and scavenged belongings at sites around the city.

Despite extensive contact with social workers, the event only netted seven people who took them up on government services connecting them to resources.

The notion that an addicted person can deal with their infirmity without mandatory intervention remains a standard debate among the “nonprofit” profiteers, who are seemingly less interested in long-term results as they are growing the number served in their mission statements and regular pleas for “more funding for this social ill.”

But grants and donations are seldom tied to metrics of success, instead making the displaced comfortable living in squalor amid an endless cycle of dependency.

Also, the notion of “compassion” has earned us multiple district attorneys who forgive good old-fashioned misdemeanor thefts up to $925, rarely prosecuting homeless individuals engaged in low-level criminal behavior.

While professional nonprofits and consultants advocate for more services, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there is a significant waste of resources as many recipients simply cycle through various programs and end up back on the streets.

Often for the homeless individual, there is no personal accountability or sense of responsibility for their own circumstance.

According to Chris Megison at Solutions for Change, the average cost of public services (law enforcement, child welfare, hospitals, etc.) has been estimated at approximately $214,000 over two years.

There are successful models, each somewhat different from the other.

One example is Vista’s Solutions for Change, which has a 93% success rate for those who complete its 700 day “Solutions Academy.”

The nonprofit’s motto is “Get up, suit up, show up,” offering entrants common-sense life skills, job training (how to get and grow a job) and help repairing damaged personal relationships, etc.

Solutions for Change also runs a farm, teaching “important work values and preparing people for re-entry into the workforce.”

The organization gets to the root causes of homelessness, committed to each person’s success and recovery.

Lastly, at the end of the day, housing for the unhoused is a land-use issue.

What about a simple RV park with security, bathrooms, and a food facility that can also be a centralized location for caseworkers and resources ready to be employed?

The county, state and feds have plenty of land away from our neighborhoods that protect the residents from the degradation of our neighborhoods, that could be utilized.

The Duwara Consciousness Foundation is developing a new model, purchasing 120 acres of land to build a “regenerative forest farm” co-op where each farmer will become part owner, earning a share of profits and dividends.

Room and board will be offered through work or monetary exchange, providing a 10-by-12-foot living space with a solar panel for light and heat in a community setting. The initial cost is around $5000 compared with up to $700,000 for a state-built studio!

In Austin, Texas, Community First Village has created a similar model, providing affordable housing for the disabled and chronically homeless.

Will our city and county governments be wise with our tax dollars and invest in a model that deals with homelessness holistically as opposed to more expensive Band-Aids?

Ironically, I’ve not heard any local discussions about identifying land for RV parks to help shelter the homeless. Why not? Where is the common sense in governance?

Daniel Hare is an Encinitas resident.