Homelessness, Two Local Views, One Solution

Providing a hand-up rather than a hand-out stands as the ancient principle for the advancement of those in dire straits—our organization favors the hand-up approach which we wrote about in our 2005 report, (pp. 25-37).

These two perspectives for solving our local homeless situation, from Mayor Kevin Johnson and columnist Marcos Breton, both reported in the Sacramento Bee, represent each well, but Breton’s is the only viable solution.

Excerpt from the mayor.

“Mayor Kevin Johnson on Tuesday pledged his commitment for creating a sanctioned “safe ground” for as many as 100 homeless campers in Sacramento, calling it a final piece of the area’s mosaic of programs to shelter needy people.

“I believe we have waited too long” to create a place where homeless people can legally sleep outside with basic services and access to programs that can help them become more stable, he said at his weekly news conference. “We’ve studied this for three years. This is not that complicated.”

“Currently, about 100 campers have pitched tents on the south side of the American River near 10th Street, and the City Council was scheduled to take up the controversial matter for the first time Tuesday night.”

Excerpt from the columnist.

“The idea of a government-funded homeless camp inSacramento is simply a bad idea that won’t go away. It was being pushed again Tuesday by Mayor Kevin Johnson but should be opposed again, for many reasons.

“First, Sacramento always follows the same unjust pattern when it comes to homeless services: They are generally shunted next to poor people with no political voice. The people doing the shunting are generally wealthy or influential people, such as Johnson, and others who wouldn’t dare put the homeless where they live.

“I’ve made that point repeatedly, so here is another one: KJ shows a big heart for trying to do what he can. So does Councilman Jay Schenirer. And despite occasional scorched-earth political tactics, the folks at Loaves & Fishes, Sacramento’s largest homeless charity, are wonderful people.

“But no matter how well-meaning their intentions are, enabling and subsidizing unhealthy lifestyles is a mistake for everyone.

“It doesn’t benefit homeless people who need to get back on their feet or taxpayers whose money would go to a homeless camp that would never go away. Check out Portland or other cities.

“You build them as temporary solutions and they become permanent….

“What this situation requires is separating who wants help from those who don’t. For those who don’t, I’m sorry but you have to go somewhere else. For those who do: Transitional housing with rules to stay clean, law-abiding and focused on employment.

Cottage Housing, a nonprofit that moves homeless people into housing and toward jobs, is the idea that needs promoting here.

“Helping people who want to help themselves is something the public can get behind.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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