Laguna’s homeless shelter was established as result of the legal settlement between the city and the ACLU. While the shelter has worked to keep 42 people from having to sleep in public spaces, the number of homeless has increased over the years and continues to be burden on our Police Department, emergency responders, store owners, residents and visitors.
The few success stories solving homelessness come from places like Salt Lake City. The plan is simple: create housing for the homeless. This simple strategy was adopted over 14 years ago in Salt Lake City and has worked to provide housing to 90 percent for the chronically homeless. “Housing First” has been both a financial and social success.
“Housing First” works because it takes the chronically homeless, who typically have a disability, drug addiction or mental health problem, off our streets and provides an appropriate site to provide the services needed to re-integrate them back into society, if possible. Of course, you will never get all of them off the streets as some are mentally disabled or just can’t live off the streets.
The funding for the Salt Lake City program, came from the city, the State of Utah, and the Mormon Church. However, the majority of funding came from grants provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which now gives priority to the “Housing First” strategy over other approaches. The Friendship Shelter has received grants for this purpose and has taken scores of homeless off the streets of Laguna in the last few years.
We should be encouraged by City Council candidates who commit to a regional solution, even though their commitment is ignited by an election. We should be less encouraged by one candidate, Cheryl Kinsman, whose solution is more boots on the ground and K9 dogs, or another who thinks the homeless are the cause of high crime in downtown Laguna. This same candidate, Peter Blake, has admitted that he never attended a City Council Meeting. Can he really be part of the solution?
George Weiss, Laguna Beach