Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Friday that he and the federal government have reached a preliminary agreement with the Trump administration on a joint plan to help combat the city’s homelessness crisis by erecting temporary shelters.
There has been much speculation in recent weeks that the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson has exerted a great deal of pressure on Garcetti and other big city California Mayors to act swiftly on temporary shelters.
Earlier this week, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Los Angeles radio host, media personality, and physician and addiction medicine specialist, was the keynote speaker at Sacramento’s State of Downtown. Pinsky has long attributed California’s homeless explosion to a mental health crisis, as well as caused by many overlapping state and local political policies which decriminalized many felony crimes.
While most of the Sacramento media reported that Pinsky was complimentary to Sacramento’s Mayor Darrell Steinberg for announcing he would adopt the San Antonio, Texas Haven for Hope model of homeless shelter and services, there was a real change-of-tone with the Mayor.
Steinberg, who co-chairs Gov. Gavin Newsom’s state-wide task force on homelessness, has previously dismissed many recommendations of Haven for Hope as the best model to address and start reducing homelessness in the city. Steinberg, along with Garcetti, was a staunch “housing first” advocate.
The Newsom administration has repeatedly claimed the explosion of drug-addicted, mentally ill people on the street is a housing shortage and housing affordability problem.Housing may be one part of the problem, but lack of housing is not at the root of the hundreds of thousands of drug-addicted mentally ill people living on city streets, in public parks, along rivers and parkways and in tent cities.
In 2019, Gov. Newsom announced the formation of the Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force and its co-chairs, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, “two city leaders from cities ravaged by homelessness, filth, and disease.”
Last year I interviewed Dr. Ben Carson, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, about HUD’s approach to decreasing homelessness in cities throughout the country. Housing is one big problem in California, but he said that California is not approaching the homeless and transient problem correctly by allowing the massive tent cities to flourish; he said it costs cities less to get the homeless off the street than to deal with filthy homeless encampments and the ensuing health and disease concerns. Dr. Carson is also a believer in not making the homeless too comfortable. “Compassion means not giving people ‘a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me,’” Carson told the New York Times last year.
We also discussed the Haven For Hope, in San Antonio, Texas, a model holistic homelessness program using public and private funds, which addresses all of the issues surrounding homelessness. Haven for Hope, which is listed and rated on Charity Navigator and Guidestar, provides short-term residential housing on-campus, substance abuse, mental health treatment, employment services, education services, life-skills training, legal services, childcare, health care, even an animal kennel, and housing. But they require accountability, and getting off drugs and alcohol.
Dr. Drew Pinsky asks when will enough be enough with three homeless people a day dying on the streets of Los Angeles. In Sacramento, he said one homeless person a day is dying. “It’s a slow genocide,” he said during his speech at the Sacramento event. “So, what’s the body count need to be before you make a change.”