Gary Horton: Deciding to decisively end homelessness

By Gary Horton

Last update: Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

The vote on Measure H was held Tuesday. Plainly, as I write this on Election Day, I don’t know which way the wind will blow.

This much I do know: I’ve been cajoled, pressured, called, texted and marketed by dozens of Measure H support groups – many of which would likely be recipients of those funds.

And with Measure H’s 40 separate initiatives there’s “something inside” for every service provider, landlord, social worker, and all the other folks entwined in our Homeless Industrial Complex.

Let’s not mince words – homelessness, and our “cure” for it, have become a “thing.” An industry. A place where money goes and people are “served” and still, after hundreds of millions spent, we only see the problem growing.

Maybe we are approaching this wrong?

The practical man sees Measure H as a diffuse boondoggle of epic proportions. In Measure H we read slippery words like “should,” “may,” “plan,” “study,” “advocacy,” “outreach” and “qualify.” We don’t read defined statements like “Move (quantity inserted here) into housing.”

The proposed $3,500,000,000 tax appears an avalanche of dollars sprayed across the county in seemingly sufficient quantity to cure almost everything, including cancer.

But H proposed to scatter this $350 million annual money machine across 40+ separate “strategies,” across 4,550 square miles, at 60,000 homeless with more coming. After deducting the inevitable county overhead, we might see $2,000 to $3,000 actual dollars hitting each of those in need. How far will that go? How will that actually turn around lives or house people in a city where monthly rents alone equal nearly that much?

Measure H displays we simply don’t have the will or backbone to do what it takes to really end homelessness meaningfully. Ending this plague against our humanity takes owning up to what’s wrong with our society and what’s wrong with our own attitudes.

The homeless are homeless because something in their lives failed. Something in our society has also failed as, societally, we’ve allowed honest-to-God human beings to live in worse conditions than our pets.

Face it: most have greater emotional response to lost dogs and cats than we do folks wrapped in blankets under freeways. Think that one through and look in the mirror.

Something went wrong on our way to capitalist nirvana. Some of our fellow humans got messed up, swallowed up, and spit out.

“It’s their own fault,” we like to rationalize, but even those lost pets pulling our heart strings made mistakes and ran away from their owners. People make mistakes, too. We just don’t care so much for lost humans as we do dogs and cats.

Things have to change within us if we want to be a humane society and really, truthfully and forcefully end this homelessness thing: We’ve got to have the backbone to declare homelessness plainly unacceptable and even “illegal.”

One cannot overstay one’s reservation at a public campground. One cannot homestead in Yellowstone and expect the rangers not to kick you out. Similarly, we cannot tolerate folks loitering in public spaces designed for kids, family sports, shopping or hiking.

Our public spaces are purposed and paid for to support healthy public life. Tolerating homeless loitering, many with social and mental problems, degrades our communities and lowers the quality of life for the vast majority.

As a society, we’ve developed zero tolerance for many things averse to public well-being. Homelessness and loitering must be added to that list.

However, with this determination, we are fully and morally compelled to provide proper facilities and services to move these folks into safe and appropriate spaces – and hopefully full reintegration into functioning society.

Therefore, we must end our “not in my backyard” syndrome. The homeless need homes, and that means zoning to allow both government and private enterprise to build affordable, or even free, housing.

And what we build must be appropriate for the needs of those requiring assistance. From transitional housing, to medical service, to permanent – what needs to be built must indeed be built – and built in the locations where the needs are present.

Most homeless suffer mental stress or disease. We must rebuild permanent mental facilities sufficient to care for, and house, thousands of homeless individuals throughout Los Angeles.

These facilities must provide mental health care, life planning, directive assistance, and employment skills. The half steps of Measure H won’t cut it.

Many homeless are U.S. veterans. The V.A. must step up and provide real living assistance to these soldiers we say we hold in such esteem. We want more jobs in America? Hire folks to reach out and help our needy vets. We’ve got to move beyond Hometown Hero flags on our streetlights to pulling our domestically fallen heroes back into society.

All of this takes real guts, determination, and public generosity. It takes real community resolve. Ultimately, it takes a change of personal hearts where we value our lost humans at least as much as our pets.

Passed or not, Measure H, unfortunately, won’t accomplish any of this. But we’d feel better as public dollars are spewed across Los Angeles like the natural gas that blew out of that Porter Ranch gas leak.

Against this dire assessment, in the future I’ll address the real, tangible ways we actually stop homeless here in the SCV.

Here, I’m optimistic. Here, we can get a handle on it. And here, where Measure H funds would largely pass us by anyway, we can still – with minds now aware – solve homelessness, making Awesometown even more awesome.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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Gary Horton: Deciding to decisively end homelessness

The vote on Measure H was held Tuesday. Plainly, as I write this on Election Day, I don’t know which way the wind will blow.

This much I do know: I’ve been cajoled, pressured, called, texted and marketed by dozens of Measure H support groups – many of which would likely be recipients of those funds.

And with Measure H’s 40 separate initiatives there’s “something inside” for every service provider, landlord, social worker, and all the other folks entwined in our Homeless Industrial Complex.

Let’s not mince words – homelessness, and our “cure” for it, have become a “thing.” An industry. A place where money goes and people are “served” and still, after hundreds of millions spent, we only see the problem growing.

Maybe we are approaching this wrong?

The practical man sees Measure H as a diffuse boondoggle of epic proportions. In Measure H we read slippery words like “should,” “may,” “plan,” “study,” “advocacy,” “outreach” and “qualify.” We don’t read defined statements like “Move (quantity inserted here) into housing.”

The proposed $3,500,000,000 tax appears an avalanche of dollars sprayed across the county in seemingly sufficient quantity to cure almost everything, including cancer.

But H proposed to scatter this $350 million annual money machine across 40+ separate “strategies,” across 4,550 square miles, at 60,000 homeless with more coming. After deducting the inevitable county overhead, we might see $2,000 to $3,000 actual dollars hitting each of those in need. How far will that go? How will that actually turn around lives or house people in a city where monthly rents alone equal nearly that much?

Measure H displays we simply don’t have the will or backbone to do what it takes to really end homelessness meaningfully. Ending this plague against our humanity takes owning up to what’s wrong with our society and what’s wrong with our own attitudes.

The homeless are homeless because something in their lives failed. Something in our society has also failed as, societally, we’ve allowed honest-to-God human beings to live in worse conditions than our pets.

Face it: most have greater emotional response to lost dogs and cats than we do folks wrapped in blankets under freeways. Think that one through and look in the mirror.

Something went wrong on our way to capitalist nirvana. Some of our fellow humans got messed up, swallowed up, and spit out.

“It’s their own fault,” we like to rationalize, but even those lost pets pulling our heart strings made mistakes and ran away from their owners. People make mistakes, too. We just don’t care so much for lost humans as we do dogs and cats.

Things have to change within us if we want to be a humane society and really, truthfully and forcefully end this homelessness thing: We’ve got to have the backbone to declare homelessness plainly unacceptable and even “illegal.”

One cannot overstay one’s reservation at a public campground. One cannot homestead in Yellowstone and expect the rangers not to kick you out. Similarly, we cannot tolerate folks loitering in public spaces designed for kids, family sports, shopping or hiking.

Our public spaces are purposed and paid for to support healthy public life. Tolerating homeless loitering, many with social and mental problems, degrades our communities and lowers the quality of life for the vast majority.

As a society, we’ve developed zero tolerance for many things averse to public well-being. Homelessness and loitering must be added to that list.

However, with this determination, we are fully and morally compelled to provide proper facilities and services to move these folks into safe and appropriate spaces – and hopefully full reintegration into functioning society.

Therefore, we must end our “not in my backyard” syndrome. The homeless need homes, and that means zoning to allow both government and private enterprise to build affordable, or even free, housing.

And what we build must be appropriate for the needs of those requiring assistance. From transitional housing, to medical service, to permanent – what needs to be built must indeed be built – and built in the locations where the needs are present.

Most homeless suffer mental stress or disease. We must rebuild permanent mental facilities sufficient to care for, and house, thousands of homeless individuals throughout Los Angeles.

These facilities must provide mental health care, life planning, directive assistance, and employment skills. The half steps of Measure H won’t cut it.

Many homeless are U.S. veterans. The V.A. must step up and provide real living assistance to these soldiers we say we hold in such esteem. We want more jobs in America? Hire folks to reach out and help our needy vets. We’ve got to move beyond Hometown Hero flags on our streetlights to pulling our domestically fallen heroes back into society.

All of this takes real guts, determination, and public generosity. It takes real community resolve. Ultimately, it takes a change of personal hearts where we value our lost humans at least as much as our pets.

Passed or not, Measure H, unfortunately, won’t accomplish any of this. But we’d feel better as public dollars are spewed across Los Angeles like the natural gas that blew out of that Porter Ranch gas leak.

Against this dire assessment, in the future I’ll address the real, tangible ways we actually stop homeless here in the SCV.

Here, I’m optimistic. Here, we can get a handle on it. And here, where Measure H funds would largely pass us by anyway, we can still – with minds now aware – solve homelessness, making Awesometown even more awesome.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

About the author

Gary Horton

Gary Horton

  • lois eisenberg

    “Deciding to decisively end homelessness”
    Gary Bingo to your opinion column and Bingo to Measure H.

    • Brian Baker

      How can you “Bingo” the very same column that CONDEMNS the same Measure H that you’re also “Bingoing”?

      Logic isn’t your strong suit, is it?

      • Phil Ellis

        Her Bingo’s are given blindly. If she can even read these columns, her comprehension is . . . .. we, you know.

        • Brian Baker

          Heh heh heh…

          Yep.

      • Ms Cassie

        “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
        F. Scott Fitzgerald

        • Brian Baker

          Quoting a guy who died from alcoholism. Not exactly compelling, know what I mean?

  • Brian Baker

    Well, again, you and I agree on this issue, Gary, and I’m sure that blows your mind as much as it does mine.

    In your column you called this measure a “boondoggle of epic proportions”, and I’m right there with you. You also state that “We’ve got to have the backbone to declare homelessness plainly
    unacceptable and even ‘illegal.’”

    The problem, as I pointed out in my own column urging a “No” vote on H, is that the measures that used to be in place to combat homelessness – and they were pretty effective – were deemed decades ago as being violations of the rights of homeless people to self-determination and autonomy. The “declare it illegal” strategy, as effective as it was, was nullified. That ship has sailed.

    I actually believe that was proper, because if one class of people can have their rights taken away based solely on their economic status, none of us are safe.

    You speak of “zoning to allow both government and private enterprise to build affordable, or even free, housing’, and maybe there’s a partial answer there. But that has to be done in
    a realistic manner, putting aside the pie-in-the-sky approach so many bleeding hearts want to impose by forcing “affordable” housing into existing or developing communities in which such housing isn’t a natural fit with the rest of that community. Sticking Section Eight or other “affordable” housing units in the middle of a planned gated community, for example, isn’t going to work, on many levels, and it also unfairly penalizes property owners who will suffer loss of the value of their homes when such units are dropped in their midst like meteorites falling from the sky.

    Yes, areas can be specifically zoned for such housing, but then we have to accept that we’re just creating more “projects”, like Nickerson Gardens and other such disaster areas. And that still doesn’t address the unfortunate fact that, unlike in the movies, you can build it and a
    lot of people still won’t come. It doesn’t acknowledge the reality that some homeless choose to be so, or are unable to live in such units due to mental deficiency or substance abuse, and simply won’t avail themselves of such accommodations.

    So it seems we agree on the nature of the problem, and the fact that Measure H is going to less than useless in actually “solving” it, but differ on what can actually be done about it. You’ve said you’re going to make some proposals in your next column, and I’m eager to see what you propose.

    Frankly, I don’t see an actual solution that’s practical and legal.

  • gary

    Brian,

    I’ve always said that I believe most of us WANT the same things. We might choose to achieve them in different ways.

    I do believe we need to go back to the “loitering, homelessness, camping in public spaces designed for other purposes is illegal.” Why should it be different than camping at Big Sur? You can’t go homeless there.

    Look, if many or most of these folks have serious mental challenges, we must HOUSE them until they are well. Period. To not do so is to ruin well being for everyone else, while we perpetuate the pain and suffering of those with the mental challenges. Mental illness should not be a “right” we uphold and honor! It’s a damn disease that needs treatment and any humane person would agree.

    We don’t want “catch and release” either. It must be “catch and caretake until cured.” Yeah, its expensive, but not like crime and prisons. We just need a heart… and a backbone.

    For starters, the shelter here has to be open year around. They can’t work with their clients when the clients get booted back “into he riverbed.” When the 60 people they have there come back each night they can check up on the meds, review progress, direct, hook up with agencies, follow through with case work. Not so when the “clients” are banished back into our “out of sight” spaces, spilling over into our “in plain sight” spaces.

    As you your comment on “where should these facilities be?” Again, I agree with you that you can’t social engineer treatment centers into neighborhoods where folks worked all their lives and paid hard money to live well. Nor, can you dump them on the struggling spots. Either way, that’s not fair. But, just as we have spaces for schools and spaces for prisons and spaces for firehouses and spaces for police stations and libraries and all the rest – we can create valid spaces for “recovery centers” that do everything from out patient to emergency housing, to transitional housing, to medical and mental health care… and even to semi-permanent housing. It’s doable. If we want it.

    And in this situation, if you’re homeless, you have some choices: Take the generous and appropriate comprehensive help we’re providing, leave the area, or find a family member to move back in with. Anything – but you can’t mess up my neighborhood with your begging, your petty crime, and your problems. I will help you, but I’ll help you on my terms, not yours. Public space is public space, designed for specific purposes. Sidewalks are for walking. Streets are for cars driving. Parks are for playing and recreating. Shopping centers are for shopping. Planters are for plants. Riverbeds are for rocks and lizards and scary things.

    Homes are for people. Hospitals are for ill people. Mental facilities are for those with mental issues. Transitional housing is for folks transitioning through life’s challenges.

    Let’s not get any of this confused. If we want order in society we’ve got to sustain it – compassionately.

    – Gary

  • Brian Baker

    Again, Gary, We’re pretty much on the same page. But there are major issues here that have to be addressed, and there’s also a reality to be faced: not every issue CAN be addressed, and not every problem CAN be solved.

    That’s simply a fact of life.

    First, I’ll say that I have no problem – zero, zip, nada – with truly private efforts to address this issue. That’s the very essence of traditional charitable work. It’s when we get government involved that the problems begin.

    You: “Look, if many or most of these folks have serious mental challenges, we must HOUSE them until they are well. Period… It must be ‘catch and caretake until cured.’” Which is exactly what was outlawed as being unconstitutional: involuntary confinement. So how do you propose circumventing that prohibition?

    You: “But, just as we have spaces for schools and spaces for prisons and spaces for firehouses and spaces for police stations and libraries and all the rest – we can create valid spaces for ‘recovery centers’ …”. I agreed with you that we can do that, as long as we ALSO accept the fact that we’re creating essentially “projects” at the same time. We’d have to find some
    location for them that’s essentially tucked away in some corner somewhere, out of sight.

    You: “And in this situation, if you’re homeless, you have some choices: Take the generous and appropriate comprehensive help we’re providing, leave the area, or find a family member to move back in with.” And again, how do you enforce that? That’s ALWAYS going to be a major sticking point.

    • Brian Baker

      Huh…

      I wonder what happened to Gary’s comment?

      • Ron Bischof

        Interesting. I read it earlier as well.

        • Brian Baker

          Yeah, that’s very weird.

      • gary

        I didn’t take it away…

        Gary

        • Ron Bischof

          Bizarre, eh?

          Ghost in the machine or intentional? Nothing in your post violated The Signal TOS.

        • Brian Baker

          I suspect it’s because you’re only using the name “gary”, which is a violation of the new TOU. Not a full name. Probably got caught by the software.

  • lois eisenberg

    Hey guys let’s talk about the repeal and replace debacle ACA that the Republicans have
    proposed.!!
    Let’s talk about the wiretapping debacle!
    Let’s talk about 122 detainees that donald lied about !
    Let’s talk about the debacle travel ban!
    Let’s talk about lie after lie that donald spews!
    etc.etc.etc.etc.

  • Bill Reynolds

    “Build it and they will come.” ~Field of Dreams.

    • Brian Baker

      That’s the quote to which I was referring when I wrote: “And that still doesn’t address the unfortunate fact that, unlike in the movies, you can build it and a lot of people still won’t come.”

  • Brian Baker

    Interesting article on the vote in today’s LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-measure-h-20170308-story.html

    “Voting was below the two-thirds threshold in the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys and was mixed in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. Only 40% voted for the measure in the city of Santa Clarita.”

    Well, good for us. At least a little bit of common sense out here.

    Further, according to that article, there’s still a chance that this thing won’t pass. Its current margin of victory is razor-thin with a lot of mail and provisional ballots still to be tabulated.

    • lois eisenberg

      “Voting was below the two-thirds threshold in the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys and was mixed in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. Only 40% voted for the measure in the city of Santa Clarita.”
      So what it still passed !!!
      Yeah for the 40% in Santa Clarita !

  • lois eisenberg

    “Deciding to decisively end homelessness”
    Gary, “the wind blew” in favor of Measure H. Yeah!!
    Gary, another outstanding opinion column! Bravo !

Gary Horton

Gary Horton