Reasonable people will differ on the answer, but most will agree that the situation has gotten worse; and the solutions tried by City Hall have failed. Just recently they have joined forces to double down on their programs. Whether those programs are successes or failures depends on your point of view. If you believe creating permanent supportive housing is the measure of success, the City has triumphed. I don’t believe that we can or should try to provide a free apartment for life, to everyone who pitches a tent on our sidewalk. City Hall, and my opponent believe the solution is to provide the free housing. Aaron Peskin has vowed to open a “Navigation Center” in our district, and nearly did just that without any community outreach, but the building was sold at the last minute, preventing the implementation. A “Navigation Center” is a shelter where the homeless can bring all their stuff, and come and go as they please. I don’t think its a good fit for our neighborhood, and certainly should have the consent of the neighbors if considered.
So what is my solution to this overwhelming problem? Let me lay out my strategy:
First we should do what we can to prevent our residents from becoming homeless. Preventing evictions and providing relief to those who suffer setbacks should be our first line of defense.
For our residents who suffer a setback which causes them to become homeless, and are actively trying to get on their feet, we should provide temporary housing that is safe, clean and convenient to work or job training. These dwellings would not be for drug and alcohol abusers or aimless individuals who just want a hand out.
For the aimless, who represent the majority of visible homeless on our City, we should offer rehabilitation facilities, in remote locations such as Treasure Island, where they can voluntarily go, and begin to turn their lives around. We need to provide a decent place to sleep, nutritious food to eat, and counseling to address their challenges. In addition, we need to provide a path away from drug and alcohol dependency, and training, to provide them with skills to support themselves. They can start by helping themselves, maintaining their residence, and preparing meals. As they progress, they can learn skills such as farming, maintenance or construction, and perhaps rebuild some of the many treasures from the 30’s work camps that we still enjoy today.
For the most troubling of the Homeless population, the mentally ill, we have to take a more drastic approach. It is both inhumane and dangerous to allow those suffering with severe mental instability, to wander our streets. At the same time we cannot remain the depository for the nation’s mentally ill. It is extremely taxing on our social services and stretches our resources and ability to properly care for those who need help. We need to share the responsibility with our State and Federal agencies and not shoulder the burden ourselves. We also cannot rely on those who are suffering from mental illness or substance abuse to make appropriate decisions regarding their own well being. We must utilize and enforce the laws we have, and if necessary, create new ones, to protect the mentally unstable, as well as the public, from harm.
The implementation of these solutions will not be easy. There are many in this City who will disagree with my plans, and others who derive their livelihood from our failing programs. Not to mention the thousands of “Urban Hobo’s” who are counting on our compassion to enable their aimless lifestyle. We have allowed ourselves to be taken advantage of, much to our own detriment, and the longer we go in the wrong direction, the harder it will be to get back to where we need to be.