Magnet Theory for Homeless Lacks Credence



In a recent letter to the editor (“Homeless Housing is a County Problem,” June 8), J.T.Price stated that he (I’m assuming “he” throughout and apologize if I’ve guessed wrong) was concerned that permanent supportive housing (“PSH”) would make Laguna a magnet for the homeless.

I think that if Mr. Price had the time and inclination to do the research, he would find that the data simply does not support his fears.  Yes, Virginia, there is no “magnet theory.”  Peoples’ choices – whether they are homeless or housed, – to live where they live, are driven by some personal connection and not because of some peculiar service offered.

A discussion of this frequently recurring concern could serve as item 1 on the agenda of a community meeting on the subject of PSH.  Perhaps, the Indy would consider sponsoring it.

Item 2 might well be a conversation concerning what PSH – and “wrap around services” do and do not do. Who are the candidates for PSH, i.e., who are our “chronically homeless?” Short answer: those long on the street and handicapped in some fashion.  In the case of Laguna, a former police chief and a mental health nurse opined a few years back that 70 – 80% of our homeless were severely mentally ill.

What are the benefits flowing from PSH?  Item 3 on my theoretical agenda. Short answer, again: “harm reduction” for everyone.  Coincidentally, on the same day that Mr. Price’s letter was published in the Indy, the Los Angeles Times ran an article outlining some of the benefits accruing from LA’s Project 50.  Check it out.  However, the findings of the L.A project merely echo the findings of many earlier studies including studies conducted under the auspices of HUD during the presidency of George W. Bush:  reduced police interventions, reduced court and jail time, reduce alcohol or drug abuse, reduced EMT and ambulance calls, fewer ER visits, and so forth.  Again, there is a lot of information on the subject, enough to satisfy even the most data obsessed dweebs among us.

Mr. Price has also, at least implicitly, raised the issue of the sources of funding for PSH.  Over simplifying, I answer that the city would not be the source of funds but that the federal government would be.  It’s a bit more complicated than that and might well be item 4 on my agenda.


James R. Keegan, Laguna Beach


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