• Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

State of Homelessness: Building on Modest Progress – Santa Cruz Sentinel

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Jul 31, 2022

So, let’s take a look, shall we?

In Santa Cruz, the Sentinel reported that the area is now the second most expensive area in the country for renters. Meanwhile, the city of Santa Cruz has proposed a new three-year strategy focused on action on homelessness, bolstered by $14 million from the state, though plans to close the tented camp along the river benches in San Lorenzo Park have been pushed back.

The town of Eureka has had some success helping homeless people find jobs and housing, but has a severe housing shortage for low-income people.

The number of homeless people in Lake County increased by 8% in its last survey – a survey which showed that a majority of the homeless population was born in this area.

In Oakland, the city has begun cleaning up its largest homeless camp — after efforts were halted by the orders of a federal judge, who slapped them with a temporary restraining order. The site has long been plagued by fires started by campers.

Sound familiar? It should, if you live in just about any city in California with more than a few thousand residents these days. That’s because homelessness isn’t just a problem in Santa Cruz, Chico, Sacramento, or Los Angeles. It’s everywhere, and to say that most of our cities face the same challenges would be an understatement.

That’s why today we present our second annual edition of “The State of Homelessness”.

This project was born a little over a year ago when Chico Enterprise-Record editor Mike Wolcott, who serves as editor for the 14 MediaNews Group newspapers in our NorCal group, posed a series questions to his fellow editors. Questions included “Is homelessness common in your area?” and “Do people in your area claim that most homeless people come from somewhere else, and if your city just stopped all the ‘big benefits’ they would go back to where they came from?”

The fact that there are so many false stories circulating led to this project a year ago.

Today, we’re following those stories, with updates from across Northern California.
While many cities have reported progress in dealing with homelessness over the past year, the struggle continues for everyone along the West Coast.

One thing is clear: politicians’ promises aside, no city will ever be able to “fix” this problem. It’s going to take a statewide effort and in all likelihood even a national effort (and those words, with their inherent guarantee of wasting huge amounts of money, scare us as much as they scare you ). As we have seen in the coverage areas of our respective newspapers, cities alone do not “end” this, they have been able to “manage” it.

In fact, that’s a big goal for our state: to stop talking about “ending” something until we’ve seen more progress. Shelter progress. Progress in terms of mental health facilities.

And we’d like to see Governor Gavin Newsom dip into the state’s $100 billion budget surplus to help. There won’t be substantial progress on the problems cities face with their homeless population until the state takes supplemental mental health care seriously.

For cities that once had a “drug court” but no longer have one, we are also short of it.
And, finally, we need more progress on affordable housing. During his campaign in 2018, Newsom promised 3.5 million new homes in California by 2025; instead, fewer than 100,000 units were completed each of his first two years in office. He is right when he says that NIMBYism is a huge problem; but, if every homeless person in the state somehow ended up with the financial means to move into a house tomorrow, that wouldn’t matter. There just aren’t enough places to live.

With that, we invite you to read our collection of stories today, which have only one purpose: to remind everyone that our fellow citizens (housed and unhoused) are facing the same problems and that we will all have to forever “resolve” them.

Again, the best we can hope for at this point, without further help from higher levels of government, is to continue to make progress. Let’s build on the momentum and learn from what others are doing.