CAROL WILSON, Capistrano Beach
I attended my first meeting of the Homeless Task Force in Dana Point. There was an excellent presentation by Larry Haynes of Mercy House regarding statistics on our local homeless. Dana Point has 64 homeless individuals that have been assessed and have been homeless in our city for an average of five years.
Prior to attending this meeting, I had read numerous articles of various states like New York and Utah and cities using a new technique that has a 96 percent success rate to keep those individuals housed and off neighborhood streets. That new method is housing the homeless first instead of last. As with most programs, one of the biggest hurdles is the willingness of elected officials and citizens to try something new. This plan requires funding of $12,000 per individual homeless person to place in rapid rehousing; in the case of Dana Point, that would be $144,000 for 17 individuals.
The best results nationwide are to house the homeless first and then get services that are currently available to help them with what they need to function in life. Think about it; if you have no place to live, how can you hold down a job? Our Dana Point Police Services spend a lot of their time dealing with the homeless, costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars a month.
The current law changes of Prop 47 and Prop 57 prevent the sheriff from arresting the homeless for trespassing; they can only be issued a ticket or citation. Unless they are caught stealing more than $950, they cannot be taken to jail.
Where does that leave us? Perpetual homelessness in Dana Point, unless we take the steps to try something new and go with the housing-first plan and make the commitment and fund this proven method to get our “street residents” into housing and off our streets.
Mayor Pro Tem Wyatt wants to move cautiously, as he has just taken over chairing this group in July, and that is understandable. However, people want to see some results and we should have a timeline when solutions will be implemented.
If both of these programs were implemented, the cost would be $824,000. The money saved on monthly police services by simply housing people could pay for that investment in a matter of months. What is it worth to you?