Opinion By Samuel Strait – February 17, 2023
Recently I attended the local Board of Supervisors meeting, Tuesday,
February 14th, and dutifully wrote a piece for the Crescent City Times giving my
impressions of said meeting. As usual, there is often much more to say
about certain decisions made by the Board, likely as not the decision
was a poor one and will unfortunately accelerate the decline of the
quality of living here locally. This unfortunately is not a new
phenomena, as the past Board and even the most recent changes have made
little difference when it comes to poor decision making. One might
chalk it up to the disaster that has afflicted the Board in the name of
its Chair, Darren Short, but that is only the most obvious of the
inevitable bad decisions made by the current Board.
During the February 14th meeting of the Board, Item #16 of the Scheduled
Items was a rather harmless sounding item described as:
- 1)” Receive a presentation from Alison Ramsey and Kevin Malone;
- 2) authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to submit an application and
receive funding from the Encampment Resolution Funding Program; and
- 3) authorize the Director of the Department of Health and Human Services to
sign any future documents for this grant, as requested by the Director
of Health and Human Services.”
This item was approved 4-1, Supervisor Borges opposed, after a relatively short presentation and discussion.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of what this means for the County,
let us look at the players involved.
Alison Ramsey is affiliated with True North, a group that has championed
the notion that housing is the key element for solving the problem for
better than a decade with little to no success. Kevin Malone came in the
form of Daphne Cortese-Lambert, who heads up Mission Possible, and is
currently housing the Homeless in a shelter on Hoover Street.
Originally founded to be an emergency shelter that has gradually evolved
into partnership with County government. Aside from Health and Human
Services, the other player in the cabal is the Arcata Housing Project
also a ward of the state.
The fantasy is to create a Pallet Housing project in Del Norte County on
Williams Drive, site of the County’s Juvenile Hall, and eventually,
pending Coastal Commission approval, clean up a couple of places off Elk
Valley Road for, I am assuming some sort of low income permanent
housing. The project of $7 to $8 million is planned to site 30
sleeping sheds and support facilities which will house 30 of the
County’s homeless population and create a central location for support
services which apparently DHHS is unable to accomplish a few blocks
away. At some time in the future it is the intent of the County to
“clean up” two large homeless encampments off Waldo Street and
eventually produce permanent low cost housing for the homeless. Not
sure where that is going to happen in this area which is bordering a
relatively family occupied large mobile home park as well as a great
deal of residential housing.
Now that you have the short version of the fantasy, it is the time when
we should regret this hasty decision in the name of chasing an illusive
grant. As I have mention many times in the pages of the Crescent City Times,
homelessness is an age old problem that has been tackled without success
for centuries. Government solutions are inevitably “one size fits all”
solutions. Homelessness is born out of problems in an individual’s life
that seldom will be solved with “Cookie Cutter” solutions. As
Supervisor Borges pointed out, this particular solution did not succeed
in Butte County and several others as well of which he was unaware of.
Homelessness will not be solved, especially by government, or affiliated
agencies. The current homeless population is well over a thousand
people and this addresses 30. Even if you include the other 40 housed
in Project Home Key, government will have spent $11 to $12 million to
temporarily house 70 individuals. In case you are doing the math, that
is $157,000.00 and change per person, or $157,000,000 to house 1000
I can hear it being said already, “it’s only money, and think of all the
souls being saved”. Prepare yourself for the flood. Since 2017 when
our illustrious Governor Newsom took office the percentage of the
nation’s homeless in California has surged from 25% to just over 30%.
Thus far Newsom, has spent billion of dollars to house the homeless and
has reached the rarefied plateau of just over 5% of that original
population. Efforts to control the number of homeless are in retrograde
and cannot even keep up with the new numbers joining the ranks. At the
same time, those that were previously home owners and business owners in
the State reached an all time high of over 330,000 departures. Housing
costs have inflated to the point that low income housing cannot even be
built without yet more massive funding by the state’s government.
Since the problem began to encroach on the state’s elite in the
Sacramento comfort zone, the problem has gotten much worse as it has
here locally. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when the
government takes a hand in a societal problem, the problem only becomes
worse. Our local government has been pandering to the homeless for
years and only has seen the problem increase in numbers to the point
that if anyone is looking it isn’t working.
There are too many individual problems surrounding each individual that
is homeless that will not be corrected unless the homeless individual
realizes they are the only solution to their problems. Housing will not
solve that problem. Support services will not solve their problems.
They must be the arbiter of their own fate no matter how painful it
becomes, because believe it or not, housing is not a silver bullet to
success. and more than you will believe are quite satisfied with a life
style of being homeless particularly when the ameliorating solution to
the worst of homelessness is a quick government hand out.