Commentary by Samuel Strait – March 7, 2023
As we have been endlessly told by “Homeless Experts”, once you get them
housed, then is the time to deal with the issues that found them
homeless. So here we are decades later and the problem continues to
worsen. Recent “Point and Time” surveys locally have shown inspite of
attempting to house a meager few of those homeless, the problem
continues to expand at an ever more rapid pace. Our local homeless
population’s increase appears as a similar problem State wide where
California’s homeless population has increased to the point where it
represents 30% of the entire nation’s homeless population. Some sources
are saying it is much worse, this after spending billions of dollars
trying the obviously failing policies of housing first, before you ask
the homeless to address the problems that created their homelessness in
the first place.
As has appeared in many of the articles appearing in the CCTimes,
housing before the homeless address their respective issues,
particularly in the form of government funded projects, invariably
causes more homelessness. It does; however, appear that one City in
California has figured that out. Coronado, California, a city of about
20,000 on the out skirts of San Diego, has elected to change up the way
homelessness is handled and in a very short period of time can show but
a single homeless person in the city. How did they manage that you might
ask when California’s record is so abysmal?
Quite simply, they have asked the homeless to follow the law or leave.
Gone is the attitude that homelessness must be tolerated with all its
warts. No more permanent encampments or tent cities on the sidewalks.
No longer can you urinate or defecate on the City’s streets without
consequences. Open drug and alcohol use in public is no longer
permitted. Laws of which many of the homeless cannot seem to abide by
have become what is expected and enforced. The permissive attitude of
if only they are housed at taxpayer expense is gone. There are far too
may laws in place already that make homelessness a difficult
undertaking, if they were only enforced.
So what has changed in Coronado? Those that cannot follow the rules
have left for more permissive pastures. About 70% of the previous
homeless population have made that move. Those that wish to change
their life style, about 30%, are given help with their issues only if
they are committed to do so. Nothing like personal investment by the
homeless willing to change their destructive life style insures that the
assistance they receive will put them on the path to being housed. It
is only that individual commitment and correction of destructive
behavior, that will make an actual change for the better and allow for
them to become housed. Coronado’s prescription should be the model
nation wide rather than the current process. Something those in our
County who wish to see a change might just take note.
Homelessness is not something that is of recent origin. It has existed
for thousands of years. Historically the homeless were treated poorly
and it was in their best interests to change their ways. Some did, many
did not. As a result, for the most part homelessness flew below the
radar of much of the human population. This resulted in a much more
serious effort by those who found themselves in such a state to make a
greater effort at correcting their life’s pathways. When housing is
offered without substantive changes in life style, it simply has
“papered over” the issues that each of that population which is homeless
without making the changes necessary to return to becoming successfully
housed. Something Coronado has learned with great success. Something
Del Norte County has yet to learn.