Failure is Opportunity

As this editorial from the Sacramento Bee notes, the failure by local government and the largest nonprofit homeless organizations to address the issue of homelessness, and the particularly destructive impact of the long-term and large-scale illegal camping in the American River Parkway, is obvious, and the naming of some successful programs reveals the direction needed, and it is surely not Safe Ground.

Successful homeless programs are those whose goal is helping individual people become responsible and capable enough to seize the opportunity to get themselves out of homelessness, rather than the effort normative in Sacramento, of providing domestic service support to remain homeless.

An excerpt from the editorial.

“The city and county’s long effort to roust the homeless has proved to be futile. Any effort to regulate those who feed the homeless is likely to be equally so.

“The city should not attempt to draft an ordinance that would require people to get permits to perform acts of charity such as feeding the homeless. If Sacramento were to do so, it would take a hit both legally and to its reputation. It would look mean. Voluntary coordination and cooperation is a much more sensible and cost-effective alternative.

“Religious organizations, individuals of good will and homeless advocates who believe they have a moral responsibility to feed the homeless have an equal moral responsibility to do their good works in ways that do not harm others. That’s not happening now. Business owners in Sacramento’s River District who are left to clean up the trash that the homeless leave behind after they eat are harmed. When ad hoc feedings take place under freeway underpasses next to fast-moving traffic, even the homeless are harmed.

“People of good will who want to feed the homeless need to coordinate their activities. Arrange a time and place that is safe. Create a schedule and stick to it. Before departing, clean up the mess your homeless diners leave behind. The city can help by putting out waste cans and scheduling more frequent pickups where the homeless reside. It’s imperative that the homeless themselves participate in the cleanup. Sacramento Steps Forward – the city-county, public-private partnership to end homelessness – should organize the effort.

“Of course, nothing of significance will change in the River District until the root causes of homelessness are addressed. That means treatment for mental health issues and drug addiction. But first and foremost that means more safe, affordable housing.”

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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