J.T. Price’s letter (June 8) raises questions worth addressing about supportive housing in Laguna Beach. It’s a complex issue, and knowing the facts is key to developing an informed opinion.
Price objects, “permanent housing would make our town more of a magnet for homeless people.” Not true. Studies show homeless people do not migrate for services. Further, we have local data collected from our Alternative Sleeping Location (ASL) experience to show otherwise.
With nearly 6,000 unsheltered homeless on the Orange County streets each night, many believed the ASL would attract large numbers when it first opened. Worries about this ran rampant in the weeks leading up to the opening of the ASL.
Instead, today we see roughly the same number of homeless people at the ASL as we did when we opened the doors 31 months ago. And while more than different 800 individuals have stayed at the ASL in that time period the vast majority stay only a handful of nights.
Our project-specific statistics prove what we have long believed: Laguna Beach has a static group of 50-100 homeless, the majority having Laguna Beach roots. Beyond that, large numbers of transient homeless come through our community as they do in most coastal communities.
Price’s point about pooling resources is a good one. We fully intend to merge county, state and federal housing funds in developing this project. But to suggest, as Price does, that the project should be located “out of town” is to ignore the needs of our community’s homeless. This project is right-sized to serve those in our community who cannot live independently without ongoing support. It is a proportional solution to do Laguna Beach’s part in solving this regional problem.
One last point: strictly in financial terms, studies also show that supportive housing programs save taxpayers significant funds in cumulative public services for homeless people – ER visits, police and fire calls, jail/court, etc. This makes the approach not only compassionate, but fiscally responsible.
We don’t expect Laguna Beach to do it all. We do, however, hope Laguna Beach can be an example to the region by welcoming an appropriately-sized, well-conceived, and professionally managed housing project in its own backyard. It would be worthwhile for everyone in town to learn what this project is about and support it as the smart, compassionate, fiscally responsible solution it is.
Doug Anderson, board president, Friendship Shelter