San Diego County and the State of California have spent hundreds of millions of dollars helping those who are experiencing homelessness. However, we continue to see the problem expand with no visible results. In fact, it seems more widespread and worse. So, what can we do?
I believe that the majority of those who are experiencing homelessness struggle with substance abuse. As a society, we have gone from one extreme – the war on drugs, by incarcerating anyone using or selling drugs- to the other extreme of allowing people to abuse drugs on our sidewalks.
Many people are fed up with this situation, as it’s impacting their businesses, recreation areas, freeway onramps and overpasses, and the blight from the incredible amount of garbage that is produced by encampments. I don’t blame them!
A lot has been made about the “Housing First” model which promotes putting those on the street into free housing, but this allows them to continue their drug and alcohol abuse. Shelters and free housing should not be a revolving door. We must have accountability, with treatment and incentives, to get people out of the addiction cycle. San Diego County needs to be willing to enforce removing people out of encampments and into treatment.
It’s simply inhumane to allow people to live like this on the streets. As a society – we can do better. Some may say it’s inhumane to force people off the streets and into treatment, but I think it’s more inhumane to keep people on the streets.
On April 6th, 2021 I initiated action to provide 15 new staff members to support North County cities and those experiencing homelessness. This developed a pilot program for North County, which provides an outreach staff and highly qualified social workers in each city. This has provided those needing assistance with the help they need.
On September 30th, 2021 I led the effort along with the City of Vista to build a Crisis Stabilization Unit. Many living on the streets are suffering from behavioral health issues, often from addiction and this is a place where families and the police can take someone that is having a mental health issue, because the emergency room is not for them.
When it comes to homelessness in North County, we don’t need more expensive programs; we need more effective programs!