By Staff ©
Mayor Jerry Dyer’s recently unveiled his homeless plan. The plan relies on a simple idea. Get people off the street and back into the community.
In California, giving homeless people needles and leaving them on the street is the deadly combination that is no longer acceptable. Getting homeless people off the streets does wonders. As a complement to the “Housing First” model, Sprung structure navigation centers bridge the gap between life on the streets and affordable housing. San Francisco and Los Angles offer tragic examples of the alternative.
Sprung is the name of a company with a long history. It makes large, tension-membrane structures. They are not “tents.” The Fresno Rescue Mission already has two of them. Sprung structures provide a cost-effective way to create large indoor spaces. Native American community centers, manufacturers, colleges, cities, churches and homeless navigation centers use them.
Reverend Andy Bales, head of LA’s largest nonprofit navigation center, framed the problem.
New York puts a roof immediately over 90 percent of people experiencing homelessness, and is embarrassed about the 10 percent on the streets. We, in turn, put a roof over 25 percent and are not embarrassed about the 75 percent on the street. The answer is immediate shelter. You can’t leave a precious human being on the streets.
In January 2020, investigative reporter John Hirshhauer wrote that San Francisco’s homeless population had “grown at least 17 percent since 2017. . . .” Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars, Hirshhauer noted, “Major cities in California are awash in familiar pathologies: A sea of used heroin needles, piles of human waste, and a precipitous spike in crime and disorder.” The lesson from successful programs is simple. Helping homeless Americans is possible for communities not burdened by leaders with conflicting agendas.
Homeless people in California tend to come from the local community. Only 10 to 15 percent have long term drug and mental health issues. They include survivors of domestic violence, the formerly incarcerated and youth who age out of the foster care system. Many have lost jobs and expect to return to work. The homeless population includes few undocumented aliens
Sharon Lee oversees a tiny home village in Seattle. Interviewed in 2019, she said, “The idea is that people stay for a short time. We help them with their paper work, applying for housing, applying for employment, getting their kids in school, lining up their health care. Then they are able to move on with their lives.”
Patricia Walker of the Orange County Register reported in 2017 on Potter’s Lane, a project by the nonprofit American Family Housing, the first permanent container housing complex in California created primarily for homeless veterans.
Walker wrote that “those who champion shipping housing note that the building process is much cheaper and faster – about half the time – than traditional home or apartment construction. Last summer, the 54 Potter’s Lane containers spent about a day each being processed at GrowthPoint’s factory, each emerging shrink-wrapped and ready for delivery” In the end, “the containers had been reborn as bright and comfortable living quarters – insulated, air-conditioned and fully furnished, and with floor-to-ceiling windows to let in the sunshine.”
Rehabbing existing housing is another cost-effective alternative.
San Francisco and Los Angles show how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make the tragedy of homelessness worse. Needle programs enable self-destructive behavior. Bringing people in off the streets saves lives and brings them back into the community.