We are so fortunate to live in a community where residents see a problem, and actually work to fix it. Our local churches and non-profit organizations, for instance, are doing some wonderful things in the area of homelessness. As a member of the Costa Mesa Street Team, and an active participant in Trellis, I’ve had the opportunity to be apart of many of them. None of this amazing work, however, can replace the need for housing. Most urgently, the need for permanent supportive housing for those with the most complex and severe challenges.
In our polarized political environment, it is difficult to see how any contentious issue can be solved based on shared principles. I believe, however, that well-managed supportive housing practices would resonate with proponents of fiscal responsibility, and others across the political spectrum:
The Community Development Model: The community development model is not charity. Charity, while beneficial in some circumstances, simply fills a need. The community development model provides individuals with the tools and skills they need to function in society. How does giving someone a home fit into this model? It seems to conflict with the “teach a man to fish” theory. Housing, however, is a tremendous obstacle to overcome, and not having is often debilitating. Providing housing, that is accompanied with sufficient supportive services, is a much needed step in instilling the tools needed for success.
Promoting Self Reliance: As mentioned above, providing housing first gives those experiencing homelessness a much needed confidence. Access to basic amenities like water and a bed revitalizes their desire to achieve and change. Living on the streets is incredibly self-defeating, but with supportive housing one can see immediate change. When combining these positive conditions with access to physical and mental health care services an individual can begin a return to productivity rather than dependence on taxpayer-funded assistance.
Cost Savings: This is the most surprising part of this model. Homelessness is an enormous burden to the taxpayer. When factoring in calls to the police, arrests, emergency room visits, and a variety of other public services provided to those living in the streets, there is overwhelming evidence to show that it actually saves the taxpayer money to house the person. I would encourage you to take a look at the Housing First model that has been implemented by the State of Utah.
The Need for a Safety Net: Limited government activists like me also know some in our society simply can’t take care of themselves for any number of reasons. We also know, however, some will exploit any system that doesn’t prevent abuses. To achieve the necessary safety net, while not allowing “free rides,” we need to make sure that high quality assessments by physical and mental health care professionals are conducted prior to admittance to the program. Constant oversight of this program is essential. We want to end homelessness in Costa Mesa, not encourage dependency on the program, which takes us to the most important point we can make to conservatives on this issue:
Private Organizations will take the lead: Private community development organizations are much more efficient with their money. They have a passion for what they do, and that passion leads to unmatched expertise. Orange County has been blessed with an organization like Mercy House, whose team does amazing work for the individuals under their care.
Permanent supportive housing is a worthwhile cause for limited government activists. I urge your support in helping to end homelessness is our wonderful city.
To reinforce my perspective, I would encourage you to watch this report on 60 minutes which reviews the positive effects of housing.