By Samuel Strait, Reporter at Large – September 19, 2021
At a recent Board Of Supervisor’s meeting, Tiny Homes became the latest
“brain child” of True North’s Dana Port Gill as a certain cure for the
County’s homeless population. Her proposal currently being 40 tiny
houses and a community center to be developed on the property at 800
Williams Drive, former home of Del Norte County’s Juvenile Hall. While
the project may have appeal due to its out of sight out of mind location
and the insistence “housing first” is the best option for curbing our
growing homeless problem, Pastor Gill’s presentation clearly has a
number of “holes” to be filled prior to any serious consideration.
Perhaps DHHS’s Legacy project might just be allowed to develop before
any plunge further into problematic homeless housing projects as a wise
investment of time. Aging has already revealed a number of potential
problems at the Legacy site, problems to learn by.
While it was not the intent of the Board to plunge recklessly into
rubber stamping the proposal to utilize the site on Williams Drive, they
did direct staff to expend time and money in conjunction with True North
to explore the site, as well as other potential sites before considering
other major pitfalls to temporarily sheltering homeless folks in
glorified “garden sheds” on public property. The discussion by the
Board during the meeting also exposed several important considerations
that True North clearly has not addressed.
The State under Governor Newsom has budgeted billions of dollars in
temporary housing utilizing old motels and apartment houses with very
little reduction in homelessness at excruciatingly prohibitive cost.
Remember all you folks that voted “No” during the recall election that
this is only one of the many empty examples of money spent for no
effective results. The concept that is being pushed is “housing first”
before you take care of all the other problems that homeless people
bring with them. This assumes of course, that once you have them in
temporary housing, progress can be made with their “problems” and
permanent housing then becomes available for them to transition into
following a successful sheltering.
Supposing the Board did ignore the astronomical costs associated with
such a project, zoning, regulation, building code, maintenance,
utilities, and staffing, the first question that should be asked, “Is it
reasonable to suppose permanent housing for residents to transition to
is an acceptable reality”? Del Norte County is not exactly awash with
affordable rental housing currently, nor is it likely that patrons of
the “tiny house village” will be on the hot list of acceptable mortgage
offers to buy a house. Is it reasonable for the County, once True North
has ensnared them in this concept, to spend thousands of dollars per
homeless occupant for the ability to house a few homeless in temporary
housing without the possibility of moving more than a few to permanent
housing? Clearly that is all that has happened with “Room Key and Home
Key” where homelessness has actually increased in many areas of the
State. Guess that’s what you get when you vote “no” on removing
Beyond lack of permanent housing and cost, the idea that self regulated
housing “villages” in populations that make serious, life changing “bad”
decisions as a good mechanism for governance seems to be an oxymoron
with the potential for disaster. Tiny Housing in glorified “garden
sheds” seems to have the appeal to many cities, all testifying to the
“excellent results” that these projects bring to the table, yet few who
continence such a life style clearly have not experienced it. While it
may seem romantic and most certainly would be a step up in terms of
living arrangements for many of the homeless, it remains only one tiny
part of the whole process. There is no evidence that True North or the
Arcata Group, Arcata House Partnership, has checked all the boxes.
There is currently the expectation of receiving “Grant Money” to
initiate the project, then what? True North has an appetite for
“talking about problems”, then leaves the actual solutions to others.
Clearly that was already in the works before True North approached the
Board with this proposal. Perhaps it is time for True North to actually
be true to their aspirations and put their money and solutions up
front. That’s right they don’t have any, they depend on other people’s
money and solutions.