Rather than consult with successful non-profit organizations and church groups in the business of helping to change the lives of people on the street, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday regional leaders and “statewide experts” who will advise his administration on “solutions to address the state’s homelessness epidemic.”
“These leaders will join Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in meetings across the state to assist local governments in crafting their regional strategies to address homelessness, with a particular focus on homelessness prevention and early intervention…
Because Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas have been so effective in eradicating the homeless in their cities?
No. The Newsom administration is also claiming the explosion of drug-addicted, mentally ill people on the street is a housing shortage and 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 May, 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.”
“Recent homeless data shows the cost crisis is a major driver of homelessness as many Californians struggle to afford rent. As the state invests historic amounts of money in homelessness, including for shelters and mental health services, there remains a great need to slow or stop the in-flow of people becoming homeless in the first place.”
The Governor also announced plans to appoint working groups of other regional leaders, service providers, formerly homeless people and academics around specific geographies or issues affecting homelessness, to work in collaboration with these advisors. These working groups may include experts on mental health, street homelessness or rural homelessness. Selection of working groups will be made in the coming weeks.
Perhaps the Steinberg Institute will also advise the group: “Since its inception in January 2015, the institute has helped enact sweeping improvements in California mental health policy, including securing $2 billion to provide housing and care for homeless people living with brain illness,” the website says. Have they spent that $2 billion on housing for the mentally-ill homeless?
Founded in 2015 by then-Senate President Darrell Steinberg, The Steinberg Institute is not rated by Charity Navigator or Guidestar, nor are the Steinberg Institute’s IRS Form 990’s available. The Steinberg Institute actually appears to be more of lobbying organization. “One of the Institute’s key priorities and areas of work is in organizing robust legislative agendas for mental health in California and engaging elected officials,” Steinberg’s bio says.
Newsom’s group will hold three regional meetings: August in the Central Valley, September in Southern California and October in Northern California. Exact dates, locations and working group presenters will be announced closer to the meeting times.
“It’s time we stop talking about the homelessness crisis and start acting,” said Governor Newsom in the press statement. “This is a crisis that affects all of California – from rural and urban communities to coastal and inland cities. We need to work collectively to source local solutions from mayors, county supervisors and city councils and implement those solutions at scale statewide.”
The full list of advisors he named are:
- Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Co-Chair (former State Senate Pres. pro Tem, former Assemblyman)
- Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Co-Chair (former State Senator)
- Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf
- Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria
- San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher (former Assemblyman and spouse to Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez)
- Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez (former Assemblyman)
- Arcata City Councilmember Sofia Pereira
- County Welfare Directors Association of California Executive Director Frank Mecca (since 1991)
- Corporation for Supportive Housing Associate Director Sharon Rapport (since 2006)
- Western Center on Law and Poverty Policy Advocate Anya Lawler (former committee consultant in the state Assembly, and former deputy director for policy at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research)
- County Behavioral Health Directors Association Executive Director Michelle Cabrera (Healthcare Director for the California State Council of the SEIU California)
- Former U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Director Philip Mangano (President Bush’s czar on homelessness)
- Former Department of Social Services Director Will Lightbourne (Jerry Brown’s former director of the Department of Social Services)
“I want to thank Governor Newsom for assembling some of the best minds in the state to find solutions to the gravest social, economic and public safety problem we face. Our challenge is not only to identify the best ways to house those who are currently homeless, but also find a way to staunch the flow of thousands of people becoming homeless in California each year,” said Mayor Steinberg.
The advisors will examine best practices relating to prevention, diversion and intervention, as well as guide local governments as they develop regional plans to address homelessness.
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.
Lobbying the California Legislature might be more effective if the goal was to teach homeless residents to learn to become self-sufficient active members of the community. “Most cities think they’re doing a great job if they feed and clothe the homeless, but they’re not,” Haven for Hope founder Bill Greehey said in a 2011 interview. “We’re putting them through a program to become drug- and alcohol-free and live independently.”
“In May, Governor Newsom visited Oakland with Mayor Steinberg and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, where he met with formerly homeless individuals and underscored the importance of state-local partnerships to combat homelessness,” Newsom’s press statement said. “Advisors will consult with local and regional governments around the state to assess best practices and strategies to increase the production of Navigation Centers, positive housing exits and information sharing.”
This 2016 video by KPIX in San Francisco titled San Francisco’s Homeless Problem: Where’s The Money Going? ended on a hopeful note for solutions to the problem, but is emblematic of the lack of effectiveness by most cities.
Next: A Southern California city that reduced its homelessness