Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Housing First . . .

I was invited by the City of Long Beach to join the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness Committee. The invitation, via e-mail, said something about my “enthusiasm” being an asset to their group. Earlier this year I had told myself, “no more commitments!”

So, naturally, next week I’ll be attending my first meeting of the group. I don’t really know the structure of the group, so I don’t know where I fit into the puzzle yet or how far along in the process they are. Nevertheless, I joined the Housing Subcommittee, as that’s a great interest of mine.

I also happen to be a believer that the way to end homelessness is by providing ‘housing first”. This is especially important when dealing with people who have a mental illness. This Steve Lopez article in the Los Angeles Times provides some great insight as to why ‘housing first’ is the best solution.

I know many of you will see ‘housing first’ as pretty obvious concept. I’d agree with you . . . seems pretty simple. Somehow, this concept has completely flown under the radar of Long Beach’s elected officials. The City of Long Beach’s Housing Action Plan (the five year plan on how affordable housing funds should be spent – some $72 million) doesn’t even include the Extremely Low Income (the people at the bottom of our economic spectrum – think of a family of four who earns about $16,000 a year). These folks are homeless, or at great risk for homelessness. Yet, the City of Long Beach doesn’t see the need to spend money on housing for these residents in their City who number in the tens of thousands.

I guess I’m not being entirely fair. Last year the City Council adopted a Housing Trust Fund. They put a measly $500,000 into it (hardly even the cost of an average priced home in Long Beach). Oh, and the kicker . . . they dedicated 80% of that money towards people earning 20% above the average income of the City! Basically, the people who need the most assistance in the area of housing are being provided the least assistance.

I’ve pointed these things out in public before, and intend to do so until there is a significant change in attitude. So, I guess, it’ll be this type of “enthusiasm” that I bring to the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness Committee.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Kosher Ham

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