California’s homeless crisis continues to wage out of control on the streets of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and communities across the state.
State and local politicians have given lots of lip service about “taking action” to solve the problem. Not surprisingly, their vision for addressing the problem only involves government.
Lawmakers, for example, are pushing a proposal to require community colleges to house homeless people at night at their on-campus parking lots. Of the legislation, PRI’s Kerry Jackson recently said in a recent national TV interview that, “you’re going to have to improve security, you’re going to have to improve lighting on campus, and you’re inviting some issues there that are not too savory.”
Gov. Newsom has touted what he calls a “historic $1 billion investment in the fight against homelessness” in his recently signed-state budget. This is government’s typical response – just throw money at a problem and expect it to be solved.
Newsom has also created a new taskforce of “regional leaders and statewide experts” who will advise his administration on “the statewide homelessness epidemic.” Sacramento can certainly use all the ideas it can get as the status quo is failing our homeless population and taxpayers alike.
But scroll through the press release announcing the task force members and you’ll see the commissioners have one thing in common – they all represent a government-only approach to addressing California’s homeless crisis.
He named 7 mayors, councilmembers, and county supervisors to the panel, along with representatives of the county welfare directors and county behavioral health directors associations, 2 former state and federal government bureaucrats, and representatives of 2 organizations that advocate for more government spending and more government social service and welfare programs.
Most interestingly, Newsom named Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg as co-chair of the task force. His was an interesting selection given Sacramento’s growing homeless problem that has increased exponentially under his watch.
Walk through the streets of midtown Sacramento past PRI’s offices, and you’ll see foul smells, unstable addicts lurking around frightening passers-by, and growing incidents of crime. Just last week, I observed multiple broken windows and a trail of blood at two of our office neighbors as I walked to work. Steinberg clearly has a lot to learn about the issue – and not much to offer in the way of realistic proposals or solutions.
Newsom also named Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas as the commission’s other co-chair. Ridley-Thomas represents the epicenter a typhus epidemic earlier this year triggered by the city’s out-of-control homeless problem.
What’s missing from the task force – and the thinking of Newsom and most state and local politicians on homelessness – are private charities and non-profits.
In their recent brief on San Francisco’s homeless crisis, PRI’s Kerry Jackson and Wayne Winegarden profiled several non-profits and private charities across the country that are making a difference in addressing the individual needs of the homeless.
“By embracing private charities and non-profits, using tax dollars more effectively, and lifting the barriers to affordable home construction, San Francisco can make real progress in getting the city’s homeless on the path to self-sufficiency and a permanent home,” said Winegarden.
Last year in his brief on poverty in California, Kerry Jackson profiled several non-profits, private charities, and public private partnerships – such as Father Joe’s Villages in San Diego, Solutions for Change in Vista, and Saint John’s Program for Real Change in Sacramento – that are transforming people’s lives every day.
If Newsom’s task force is be anything more than a photo op, he would be wise to give a seat at the table to representatives from these and other private charities and non-profits that are making a difference every day in getting people off the street and helping them get on the path to self-sufficiency.
Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s communications director.