Santa Cruz County should be a role model county on all the issues that face us. This does not mean that we can solve them all immediately, but that we should be moving quickly toward carbon drawdown, community resiliency, all forms of shelter for those without shelter, as well as treatment options for those who are ready. We should be open to new solutions for the housing crisis for both middle and low income residents of our beautiful county.
I served for nine months on the Santa Cruz Community Advisory Committee on Homelessness, have trained staff at the largest homeless shelter in San Francisco (in China Basin) and taught a volunteer a drop-in class on mental health and resilience for nearly two years at MHCAN in mid-town Santa Cruz. Homelessness affects us all because we share our community.
Responses of fear and anger toward widespread homelessness are understandable and spring from frustration, and the real, deeper caring we all feel toward one another. People in our District–and across the County–care about their children deeply too and our public spaces.
We must not, however, dehumanize people without shelter. They are without shelter for many reasons. Did you know that 70 percent of those without homes here are residents of Santa Cruz County (who lost their homes here)?
The homeless population here includes families, working people, children and a wide spectrum of people who need very different approaches to their situations. “Housing First” is optimal, but does not work when we do not have housing to provide. I do not support criminalizing people without homes. I do support protection of public safety when people (both housed and unhoused) behave dangerously and maliciously.
We must provide transitional homes and shelters for people, along with mental health and recovery care–and look toward a wide range of solutions—including low income housing and permanent supportive housing. This issue will not be easy to solve, but we must move forward on many fronts. As noted, I am not opposed to rules and regulations when individuals are clearly acting in a dangerous or malicious manner and we need to expand our capacity for mandatory, short term treatment facilities rather than jails as one solution.
We must act on recommendations of the County Grand Jury Report and we are off to a good start with
a new County Homelessness Coordinator to help with communications between nonprofits, governments and the County and keep track of what is happening across the County. We also need county governmental infrastructure to tackle this issue for the good of us all.