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The Race for City Council
Leading up to the Dana Point City Council election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Dana Point Times will be publishing six questions, one each week, answered by the candidates qualified for the ballot. This year, the seats for Districts 4 and 5 are up for election.
Homelessness has been named as a top issue concerning Dana Point residents. How do you feel about how the city has addressed homelessness, and could more be done?
The vision and leadership by the city’s Homeless Task Force provided Dana Point with the tools and direction necessary to successfully manage this major issue. In the first half of 2020, our City housed 27 individuals. I support our current strategy to lead with staff identifying services and then working in direct cooperation with the County. Long-term, permanent supported housing is a County endeavor, and we need to support the County to fund these projects.
The City has put together a cross-functional team including staff from Public Works, a contracted Outreach Coordinator from Mercy House, and a Homeless Liaison from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. The team meets weekly and is overseen by the City’s Economic Development Director. As homeless individuals come into the City, an approach for help is identified, and the individual is engaged with compassion. If service assistance is refused, City rules are explained. The City process, team members, objectives, and measures have been operating for nearly two years, and I believe the strategy works well.
The City also works closely with the County. A portion of our property taxes are budgeted at the County level and include plans for permanent supportive housing and a cadre of wrap-around services. A good working relationship with the County is critical to ensure Dana Point homeless have access to County shelters. From a long-term perspective, the City Council also participates on the Orange County Housing Finance Trust Board, which allocates state and federal money for affordable development projects in Orange County.
In the 2018 City survey, 41% of residents felt homelessness was a top issue. A separate survey in 2020 shows a drop to 28%. The strategy and tools the City is implementing have delivered results, and I will continue to support this work with the appropriate level of funding.
Homelessness is a chronic societal problem with many causes—job loss, high housing costs, alcoholism and drug addiction, mental illness, physical illness and more. This complex issue, which includes both families and individuals, is beyond the scope of any one city, but Dana Point’s Homeless Task Force has made significant inroads, and the homeless issue in town has lessened. Mercy House, a homeless advocacy charity, was hired to provide assessment and referral services, quickly identifying homeless individuals and matching them to resources for rapid re-housing, counseling, physical and mental health assistance and referral to shelters or County housing programs. In addition, the City provides services through OCSD Homeless Liaison Officers who work with Mercy House representatives to encourage those who are service-resistant to accept help.
Recently, the City signed a Memorandum of Understanding with United Way, providing financial literacy coaching and education, case management and services to residents to educate them on financial management and pave the way to stable housing. I applaud this effort to actually prevent homelessness before it occurs. I pledge to support the City’s efforts and to work with other agencies seeking caring solutions for our homeless population.
Residents are rightly concerned about sanitary and health hazards, a perceived (or real) link to crime and a myriad of quality of life issues that affect not only the homeless but also all of us who live in Dana Point. While criminal activity must always be promptly addressed, it is important that we continue to treat homeless individuals with compassion. It is our duty to assist those less fortunate than us, offering them a helping hand in finding a way out of homelessness, but also addressing the underlying problems that led to them being homeless.
Please visit newkirk4dp.com for more information.
Homelessness is an extremely complex societal issue. I believe that communities have a moral responsibility to care for their most vulnerable.
It is a tenet of Christianity and presented in Matthew 25: 31-46.
We have limited resources available in our area for people experiencing life-changing events, and I believe it is our duty to easily connect those in need with the services we have in place. I feel that for far too long we, as a society, have stigmatized or completely turned a blind eye to the plight of our fellows; be it, family or professional hardships, mental illness including substance use disorder, or general lack of mentorship throughout an individual’s early life. Though I appreciate the cooperation and hard work our city has exhibited in partnering with local nonprofit organizations to address these issues, I feel strongly that we can further meet the unique needs of our community.
I have been working with Howard University Law student Lauren Reedy (formerly of the University of Missouri dive team) to organize a nonprofit organization called A Hand Across Charitable Organization. AHACO is a faith-based nonprofit organization aimed at empowering individuals to better their existence while affecting positive change in their communities. We had initially planned to launch in 2020 but have pushed plans until 2021 to accommodate my recent endeavors.
I pledge to work toward positive resolution of our most pressing needs.
I will hear your voice.
I will represent the needs of all my constituents equally.
I will work toward a bright future for our community.
I will work with all interested parties in meeting the needs of our growing citizenry.
Visit bebee4capobeach.com for more info about my campaign.
According to the March 2020 survey conducted by FM3 Research, homelessness continues to be a major issue for Dana Point residents. I share the same concerns and am pleased to see our city services focused on treating our homeless population with dignity and respect. I also understand that residents have very real safety concerns surrounding the conduct of some individuals who have no place to go and can cause public health or law enforcement issues.
In my opinion, all efforts should focus on identifying and solving the root causes of homelessness in our area, and working closely with individuals to mitigate these issues and provide a pathway to long-term and life-changing solutions.
The Homeless Task Force, headed by Councilman Paul Wyatt, developed an effective strategy to help control homelessness and provide effective support for those who often have underlying issues with job loss, mental or physical health challenges, addiction challenges, or a myriad of other difficulties. I support the current efforts that continue to rely heavily on contracted outreach services through the nonprofit organization Mercy House, as well as outreach offered through Police Services’ Homeless Liaison Officers.
Personally, I have noticed a positive difference in the past few years thanks to continued efforts to contact new and existing members of the homeless population promptly, providing referrals and wrap-around services. There is still much more to be done, so this effort must be continued and enhanced in view of the current economic downturn to ensure the problem does not outpace the assistance effort.
If elected, I will seek an appointment on the Homeless Task Force and will work hard to curb homelessness and provide impactful assistance to the homeless men, women, and children in our area.
Please visit my website at villarfordanapoint.com and my Facebook page at facebook.com/michaelvillarfordanapointcitycouncil.