Gary Horton | Cure Homelessness or Step Aside for Someone Who Will

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Homelessness.

The pandemic issue that has infected our body politic and raising our collective temperatures to boiling. We’ve got a fever and it’s not subsiding until our local and state – and maybe national – leadership gets us the cure.

Oh, we were sold a prescription. Told, “If we opened up and paid enough – we’d get the cure.” Four years in, and homelessness is up more than 12,000 individuals in L.A. city and county – with totals now estimated more than 60,000 people on our streets, riverbeds, and camping in cars. It’s not healthy for anyone. And, can you imagine the Olympics rolling back into L.A. come 2028 with this societal infestation still blistering over? 

Something has to give.

So far, not much observed change. Four years in and there’s been about 800 permanent housing units built –at an approximate cost of more than $400,000 per unit. More than many folks’ homes in L.A. County. 

Does that make your skin boil?

Oh, we bought the cure and our money indeed spent. Or squandered. Depends on what your definition of “spent” is. 

We’ve had studies. Commissions. Community proposals. New studies. Outreach. More “outreach.” A lot of motel owners doing pretty well, thank you. And a net increase of more than 12,000 more homeless, and the encampments moving out wider and wider and wider – touching every corner of L.A. County and beyond.

Our “leaders” on this human devastation have sounded sincere. 

“Something must be done!” 

“We’re investigating how to best respond.” 

“We acknowledge the problem and change is tops on our list.”

Santa Clarita has seen an increase in our homeless population. It’s something most encounter a couple of times a week, if not more. We get to deal with the drug-deranged at Granary Square early mornings a couple of times a week. I own a mini-storage facility in Castaic. Way up in Castaic. There’s homeless vans and trailers now parked directly up and down Castaic Road, blocking our facility. Some in no parking zones. The police “can’t do anything.” 

Indeed, they can’t. Charged with correcting the situation, our leadership has been hamstrung by court rulings forbidding them to interfere with public camping until viable housing solutions are created… for all local homeless.

And there’s the gauntlet. 

The courts have essentially said, “No more half-steps.” 

“No more snake oil.” 

“No more grand promises, but with tiny, incremental 800-units-after-four-year-steps.” 

Now, we’ve got to cure it, or live with it. Take your pick on which medicine you want to swallow.

So now, it’s time for local and state leadership to get it 100% done or get fired. Just do it or get out. Stop talking and start doing.

Our local Bridge to Home received some plus-or-minus $1 million for its diligent efforts. A quick calculation shows SCV residents have paid in more than $8 million. This is, “Not doing it.” 

Check our riverbeds. Check your shopping centers. Check the heavily planted areas in your HOA. This is not “our neighbor’s illness.” Our social pandemic has fully arrived, right here in our bucolic countryside.

That L.A., that California has dithered on this is a reflection of our creeping inhumanity. Folks get homeless for all sorts of reasons. Often, drugs lead to homelessness. And too often, homelessness leads to drugs. Leadership is correct when they say, “It’s complicated.” It is. But estimates show we’ve paid in well over $1.4 BILLION to HHH and H, and here we are with, literally, squat to show for it. We have been OK with achieving nearly – squat. Shame on us.

Good solutions abound – but we need real public and governmental crisis-level resolve to act decisively. For example, (not all inclusive):

Promote “Granny Houses” in backyards – and direct the heathiest and most functional 10,000 homeless into local “Granny Houses.” We can build these for under $80,000 each – and place capable homeless into neighborhoods where they are close to potential jobs and family.

China just built a hospital in eight days to counter the coronavirus. We can fast-track seven or eight purpose-built mental health facilities – or repurpose other unused facilities and move another 10,000 high-need mentally ill homeless for the proper treatment they deserve, and we owe them as a civilized society.

Then, we’ve got to deal with the chunkiest group – long-term out-of-work, street-conditioned, likely drug-using, likely impaired homeless. We used to build Quonset hut villages for veterans returning from World War II. Let me step way out here and suggest that if Quonset huts were good enough for our G.I.s, properly built short/mid-term alternative-structure housing located in open areas throughout the county should be good enough for the homeless who actually need and deserve a warm bed, good food, proper medical and health care and drug addiction services. 

Yes, I said it: Moving folks off from inhuman street living to well-supervised and safe, warm, healthy temporary housing is morally, socially and medically correct.

If this sounds an alarm like a response to a pandemic – it is. We have a societal illness that’s now plaguing us. Threatening our societal healthy. Our economic health. Threatening our morality as we suffer degradation all around us.

As to our leaders – many running for election right now: I say, “Get it done, or step down.” 

And to voters, “They get it done, or we vote them out.” 

All of ’em. Every one. No action, no job. Democrats, Republicans, I don’t care. 

Stop talking, start acting. Or, “We’ll throw you all out.”

And you think we have a problem now? What would happen should the coronavirus go viral in our street population? 

How then would we respond? What then would we demand?

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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