Homelessness Up For Discussion or Diversion? 7-9 PM Tonight–Monica Martinez & Don Lane

NOTE FROM NORSE:   Tonight Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom hosts a talk at the Quaker Meeting House, 225 Rooney St., east of Morrissey Blvd., in Santa Cruz (next to the freeway) 7-9 PM.Speaking are former Mayor and Board President of the Homeless Services Center (which some of us call the Homeless Lack of Services Center) Don Lane and Monica Martinez, its Executive Director.Their topic is “the current state of homelessness in Santa Cruz and calling for action in support of the 180/180 Initiative which provides permanent supportive housing for the most at-risk and vulnerable of our homeless citizens.”The 180/180 program seeks to raise government and private funds to house a fraction of the most costly homeless folks (i.e. those who scare the merchants most) with  no provision for the rest of the community and no let-up in the criminalization of the other 95%.  It seems to be a successor program to the Housing First! program and the Continuum of Care (“End Homelessness in Ten Years” shuck and jive) that got federal funding for the last decade and a half.

It’s not that providing housing and supportive services for 180 people in Santa Cruz county is a bad idea.  Obviously it’s not.  But focusing all attention and energy on a fanciful grant-magnet 180/180 program is done at the expense of immediate shelter and human rights needs.  It seems largely a self-justifying project for bureaucrats.  Meanwhile the same leaders (Lane and Martinez) counsel colluding with police and courts in their campaign to drive away and criminalize a whole class of people.  Focusing exclusively on 180/180 diverts the public’s attention from the recent smear campaign of anti-homeless warriors on the right led by Councilmembers Comstock and Robinson.  The massive “needles = homeless = illegal camps = crime” rage given unjustified credibility were recently echoed by the Mayor of the City (See http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/opinion/ci_22606878/hilary-bryant-public-safety-is-our-top-priority ).

Unfortunately Santa Cruz has several thousand homeless people (Santa Cruz County even more)–currently under rabid attack by vigilantes, police, sheriffs, rangers, security guards, city council, hired clean-up crews as well as courts and D.A.’s.   It is illegal to sleep in Santa Cruz after 11 PM at night, illegal to set up a survival camp site at any time.  The City Council (with Lane voting in favor and Martinez silent) has made “unattended” camping tickets into misdemeanors punishable by a year in jail and $1000 fine.

A prior “Homelessness Summit” on December 1st out at Cabrillo College, masterminded by the backers of the 180/180 program completely sidelined the real issue of the need for immediate shelter, campsites, legal support now and has resulted in no further action.

These “feel good” psuedo-positive initiatives sacrifice human dignity and human lives for what some politicians seem to consider the “politically possible”.  Fresno and D.C. are apparently experiencing similar problems as the stories below seem to indicate.

Fresno Activist Mike Rhodes writes:
This is from a Washington Post article published last Friday.  It is painfully obvious that the local government (both the city and county of Fresno) has had many of the same problems.  But, that does not stop them from continuing to push one program after another, even though they are doomed to fail. 
The current plan to build housing (The Renaissance project) houses a small percent (perhaps 5%) of the homeless population, with the vast majority of people left to fend completely for themselves. 
The city and county won’t even provide them with drinking water, portable toilets, or trash pick up.  I believe the reason they (city and county officials) do this is to give people (in the broader community) the illusion that they have a plan to end homelessness, but the bureaucrats in their cynical hearts, know what they are doing is not going to work.  Unfortunately, people who are not paying close attention have the hope that something is being done to solve the problem, when in fact they are being mislead.  In the meantime, the vast majority of homeless people are the ones who suffer, while the bureaucrats collect their fat salaries.
Why does D.C. still have so many homeless?By Colbert I. King, Published: February 15

More than 900 people, including 600 children, crammed into a makeshift D.C. homeless shelter? Things weren’t supposed to turn out this way. By now, we were told, homelessness in our nation’s capital would be a thing of the past. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
In 1993, the Clinton administration persuaded Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly to enter into a partnership, called the D.C. Initiative, with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The idea, hatched under HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros and Assistant Secretary Andrew Cuomo, was to make the District a national model for local governments on ending homelessness.
To get the city’s buy-in, HUD dangled a $20 million grant and other federal bucks, provided that the District kicked in some of its own funds for homeless services.
After weeks of meetings stretched into months, the cash-strapped District signed an agreement in 1994 transferring the city’s responsibility to an entity known as the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness.
In 1994, according to city estimates, approximately 3,400 single adults used the District’s shelter system. They represented about 60 percent of the people in the system.
It was thought that 1,200 to 1,500 of those 3,400 lived on city streets and used the shelters or public space intermittently or interchangeably.
About a fifth of shelter residents were families who turned to the system repeatedly because of their precarious and unstable situations.
Some had drug addictions or major health problems; some were victims of domestic violence.
The D.C. Initiative’s solution? Transition from a shelter-based system to a “continuum of care” approach that entailed creating a community network of agencies and programs to tackle not only housing needs but also the root causes of homelessness.
Over time, The Post ran a series of cautious editorials about the feds’ push for the initiative.
The District had been used before as a federal test case — with city officials often left holding the short end of the stick.
Vincent C. Gray, the director of the D.C. Department of Human Services under Mayor Kelly, testified before the House subcommittee on housing and community development on Oct. 26, 1993, as to the D.C. Initiative’s goal.
Yes, Gray has been at this for a long time.
He promised Congress that with HUD money the District would try “to create real, permanent, enduring solutions for families and singles who are homeless . . . and make a contribution to . . . the Nation in how to resolve, once and for all, the problem of homelessness in this Nation.” That was nearly 20 years ago.
The Post tracked the D.C. Initiative through the departure of Cisneros and Cuomo from the Clinton administration, and through Pratt’s leave-taking from the District government.
By 2000, the D.C. Initiative was over and done. But the homeless were still here.
In June 2004, Mayor Anthony A. Williams presented with fanfare: “Homeless No More: A Strategy for Ending Homelessness in Washington, D.C. by 2014.” He billed it as a “client centered” approach focused on bringing to the table all the key service providers to create a system that prevents and ends, rather than maintains, the problem of homelessness.
Williams left office. The homeless remained.
In April 2008 Mayor Adrian M. Fenty introduced the “Housing First” fund. “What we are proposing is a new approach to serving our chronically homeless neighbors,” Fenty said. “The systems of the past have not brought us closer to ending this humanitarian crisis.”
Fenty proposed moving chronically homeless people from the streets and shelters to housing where they could be provided comprehensive services to solve the problems that contributed to their homelessness.
Sound familiar?
Fast-forward to 2013.
Today, millions of dollars later and after years upon years of government, nonprofit and private-sector efforts, homeless families are still in the defunct D.C. General hospital shelter, in motels or on the streets.
Is it a question of funding or underfunding, management or mismanagement, commitment or lack of concern? Does part of the problem also rest with those without roofs over their heads? Is the answer some or all of the above?
The Post’s Annie Gowen reported this week that Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), chairman of the D.C. Council’s Committee on Human Services, said he would conduct hearings on conditions at the hospital shelter. That’s too limited a focus.
There is no better time to take a sober look at the persistent problem of homelessness in our nation’s capital, its causes, what has worked and failed, and what can realistically be done to get people beyond their plight to greater independence.
That may be a better D.C. initiative.

One thought on “Homelessness Up For Discussion or Diversion? 7-9 PM Tonight–Monica Martinez & Don Lane

  1. The VA’s homeless prarogm is a sham and I doubt the commenters above are for real . The reality is The current administration has increased the VA claims backlog by about double, with it now taking more than 4 years for a typical Veteran to get his claim through the VA since most claims require at least one appeal before any benefits are actually paid to the Veteran. With the backlog now more than one million Veterans, any attempt at reducing homelessness is doomed to failure. The obvious answer, rather than more government prarogms which benefit mostly well connected contractors, is to pay Veterans their deserved benefits timely.Did it ever occur to anyone there is virtually no homelessness among Veterans who are employed by the VA? Why is this? This is because the VA pays its employees in 2 weeks, while making the typical Veteran wait 4 years for his just compensation. Very few Veterans can wait 4 years on a paycheck without at least near homelessness. How many of you can do without a paycheck for 4 years and not lose their home? I know I can not wait that long. Until this backlog is seriously reduced, the VA anti homeless prarogm is but a political sham with no real substance.

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