Why More Emergency Housing Shelters, Tent Camps, Safe Parking, And Section 8 Are Not The Answer For Permanently Housing All Of The Homeless
There are many good people, organizations and government officials working on the homeless crisis. Many attempts at solving this emergency crisis are being attempted, but they are not enough. The interim solutions such as safe parking, shelters and tent camping are better than being a criminalized homeless person on the street with absolutely no support, subject to being preyed upon by the predators roaming the streets.
But the interim measures all suffer from problems, which are detailed in this article. In no way should this information be seen as anything negative said about a particular agency, group, government official or other. Everyone is doing the best that they can under the circumstances. However, it it is important to listen to the people affected by the decisions being made, and that is what this article is about… hearing feedback about how these interim measures are not really ‘working’ very well in real life. Bottom line, the question to consider is if this is the best that America can do? Are tent cities the best future that homeless can expect, both in the US and around the world?
There are 65 million refugees around the world currently. The number is going up, not down. What part is the US playing in either increasing or decreasing that number? What happens long term if these refugees and tent camp residents don’t go to school, don’t get jobs, don’t contribute to society because that social support network is not provided?
What is the effect of closing US borders to any refugees, especially to just one religion? How are refugees treated differently than US citizens who are homeless? These and many other questions should be debated in public forums.
Jeb Bush And Ted Cruz Say That Only Christian Refugees Should Be Allowed Into US, Donald Trumps Says Keep Out All Muslims, Governors Close/Wall Off State Borders, Installing Fascism
EMERGENCY SHELTERS ARE ALL OVERFLOWING IN THE US
Emergency shelters are running out of space for homeless families
A Milwaukee mom and her four children are homeless, and area shelters are telling them they are too full to give them a place to stay. If a family or a mother with children can find a place in a shelter, she cannot stay long and will to told to move out after a certain very limited number of days. Is this really shelter, or just a bandaid on a chest wound? This story is the same one at any typical city or town in the US. The situation gets MUCH worse if you are a single adult male or female without kids. Thousands of people in an average city are homeless on any given night.
Imagine what would happen if 2,000 to 4,000 homeless pets in Sonoma County were seen by the public wandering around the streets of any typical city or town during the day or night and shivering in the cold with no roof over their head, staring forlornly at the passing cars. There would be instant action and that problem would be taken care of quickly.
UNWANTED ABANDONED PETS ARE TREATED BETTER THAN HOMELESS HUMANS IN THE US, LARGELY DUE TO TEN MYTHS
But when it comes to homeless PEOPLE, those 2,000 to 4,000 homeless humans ‘animals’ are allowed to fend for themselves, and then criminalized on top of it, because all of their activities that they do to try and survive are illegal, resulting in fines, arrests and jail terms, for doing nothing more than trying to survive. Unwanted pets are treated better than humans in the US. Why is that? There are at least ten myths about why people are homeless, but they all boil down to; it is their fault, so why bother helping or caring about them?
Bottom line, in America, people care more about homeless pets than they do about fellow humans.
Germany alone and all by itself sheltered over 1 million refugees in 2015. Why can’t America shelter it’s own citizens, much less any more than 10,000 of those same refugees, despite being many times the size of Germany? Bhutan houses all of it’s citizens, and takes great pride in doing so, yet it is a tiny nation with a miniscule amount of money or wealth, compared to the US. Why can it house all of it’s own citizens, but the US cannot? These are just two examples of many more that could be pointed to, but they will suffice to make the point that America is not lacking solutions or money to house all of it’s homeless.
WHY EMERGENCY SHELTERS ARE NOT THE ANSWER TO HOUSING THE HOMELESS
Having an emergency shelter is better than nothing at all, but there are downsides to this ‘solution’, which are detailed below. This should not be seen as anything negative being said about a particular shelter, individual or organization, but rather serving as a ‘report from the individuals using it’.
Report from a homeless mom with 2 kids;
“In a typical emergency shelter, hundreds of distressed people, most of which are children, share 6 bathrooms that get cleaned once a day, on a good day. Life in a shelter is a recipe for spreading disease, especially when napkins at dinner are available only 50% of the time. Knives to cut up the food are available none of the time. (I’m pretty sure prisoners don’t have access to knives with their meal either. The irony is lost on no one.) What that means is everyone is forced to eat their pork chops, poultry and whatever other carcasses make an appearance on our plates with their hands. There is no sink available for hand washing in the dining room, which leaves the few bathrooms – which no one wants to enter unless it’s an emergency – the only place to wash up before or after dinner.
At a typical local family emergency shelter in Sonoma County, all families start off in a group room (think concentration camp with lots of cots and bunkbeds). It can take weeks or months before a family will be provided with their own room.
During this time of common area ‘sheltering’, sleep deprivation is the norm because of the natural chaos that ensues when you pile a bunch a distressed adults and children on top of each other. There is no ‘right’ to a shelter, so there is a huge stress even trying to get into one. Typical shelters are overflowing on an average winter night, with a waiting list, just like the sanctioned safe parking and tent camps.
Shelter hopping for years on end is the norm in Sonoma County with each one only offering a 2, 3, or 6 month MAXIMUM stay. These arbitrary and looming exit deadlines are a constant source of stress for most families. These limits on stays are required because of the lack of adequate shelter, as thousands of people sleep outdoors on a typical night. The answer is that people are ‘rotated’ in and out of the limited shelters available, so that theoretically, everyone gets ‘sheltered’ at least some of the time.
The fact is that there is very little to no affordable housing available for very low or low income families/individuals in Sonoma County. The lack of affordable housing for even working adults and families forces them into shelters, where the average person is chronically ill. The illness is dubbed kennel cough by all experiencing it. Now try to combine work, being constantly sick and trying to manage sick kids on top of that, and it is easy to see how difficult the situation is for families and single moms trying to survive in emergency shelters.
While existing in a shelter the typical person is wading through so many arbitrary rules and To Do’s it makes the head spin. Shelter guests are forced to wade through classes every week like yoga, Zumba, nutrition, or jogging – none of which have anything to do with getting housing.
There is an alarmingly high percentage of people on disability living primarily out of shelters in the Sonoma County area because landlords are not accommodating low-income populations, due to the fact that there is only a 1 percent vacancy rate, so rents being charged are not in the realm of possibility for low income families or individuals. This lack of low income housing contributes to the full occupancy and long waiting lists of emergency shelters which leaves people seeking help for emergency reasons. Emergency shelters are not the solution to chronic homelessness caused by lack of homes that are affordable!”
WHY SAFE PARKING PROGRAMS AND TENT CAMPS ARE NOT THE ANSWER TO THE HOMELESS HOUSING CRISIS
I don’t sleep well. It’s not that I have nightmares. It’s that I wake to them.
At first I was convinced my experience would be a quick stint living in Santa Rosa’s Safe Parking
program, but I am approaching two months now and all the shelters are still full. Each evening I watch my son run and play in a filthy parking lot coated with motor oil and urine. I shrink quietly inside when what I really want to do is scream at the injustice.
It could be worse. I recently met a family with four children, all under the age 10, without even so much as a vehicle to shelter them. I was scared to ask where on the streets they slept. Was it in a covered parking lot? An abandoned building? Was it safe?
Each day I looked for hope that the state of crisis my street-dwelling neighbors and I are enduring will end. As I watched my son sticking his pudgy fingers into cracks in the filthy parking lot that doubled as our livingroom I wondered what kind of disgusting thing he was so preoccupied with. He was proud of himself for finding dirt and bugs. Instead of shrieking my horror at how filthy he was getting while insisting that he sit tight on his box of clothes and read books until the sun set, I resigned myself to the fact that he needed to run around and was going to get covered in grime that I had no way of washing off.
With this resignation I detached from the pain by imagining giant redwoods springing out of the cracks, and it was only a small leap to imagine building tree houses out of the forest my son and I were babbling about while he played with a tiny patch of dirt. Could I plant seeds in the cracks of Santa Rosa’s Safe Parking Lots? Could I build the tiny houses
that we are so proud to have birthed in Sonoma County, and provide a roof over the heads of people who are stuck sleeping outdoors?
I bristle when anyone calls this car camping, as if the families that resort to it are on a weekend jaunt with their Igloo cooler and s’mores during Indian Summer have little more to worry about than getting their babies down for afternoon naps.
I place my son in his car seat every afternoon and drive around with the air conditioning on because sleeping in an oven, even an oven ventilated by rolled down windows, isn’t an option. Would the money that I spend on gas be better spent elsewhere? No. There is literally nothing more precious than having a comfortable and well-rested baby, especially as I try to shelter him from my fear.
Driving is also an escape. The cold, Freon air pumping into our inner sanctum, white noise, lulling my son to sleep. My eyes see beyond the dirty streets. My first days of homelessness were muffled and confused, like the moments after a bomb blast. Time stood still as I recognized the unfolding events that would alter my life forever. Stress distorted the sound of everything but my voice calling his name. I only had the mental capacity for one thing, to stare at him with crazed determination, to make sure he was safe. His name is River. My soon-to-be-3-year-old-little-darling-boy, the most precious being I have ever known. I stared at him through the spiraling circumstances beyond our control, no home, no warm bed, no place to feel safe, no place to reside as mother and son.
Sitting up in a car seat isn’t the ideal position for a baby to nap, that hour to 90 minutes refreshes both of us for the rest of the day. I’ve found every available free wi-fi spot to go to during these nap time drives, for the rare instances when I can park, keep the car running, and connect to the grid in attempts to save the quality of our lives while he naps slumped over in his carseat.
The rainy season will soon approach and imagining this same routine in a constantly damp state stirs anxiety deep inside– one attack was bad enough for the emergency room, symptoms like a heart attack. Thankfully my physical heart is okay, but my emotional heart needs resuscitation.
I carry a gallon of bottled water, a loaf of sprouted grain bread, a jar of natural peanut butter, and a squeeze bottle of honey with us in the car. We drink straight from the gallon jug like barbarians who don’t yet know the civility of glasses or sinks. The bread grows mold rather quickly in the heat. We travel a circuit of homeless advocacy spots for generous meals. My favorite new joke is that I’ll easily roll out of this parking lot 2 sizes bigger due to all the refined starches and processed food the homeless are served.
The Living Room in Santa Rosa
which serves homeless and at risk women and children provides a clean and safe environment with delicious food we could never afford on our own. I’ve eaten more salmon and steak in one month than in my entire life. I am grateful my son gets a full belly before his carseat nap.
My two dogs, Mia and Shakespeare, are the first casualties of our homelessness. I can’t bear to the see them spend their days in a Volvo. None of the places where I can enrich the life of my son, the library or the children’s playground, are dog friendly. On the sixth day I returned to the shady spot where I’d left our car while grabbing sandwiches at Trader Joe’s to find Mia had escaped through the open window and was perched on the roof. Such a clever dog. Clearly irritated from too much time in the cramped and balmy car, she was aloof. I couldn’t reassure her or myself that our days in the Volvo would end anytime soon. It was heartbreaking to realize any dog lover with a home could care for Mia and Shakespeare better than I could.
I was told it could be a three to five month wait before a bed in a shelter would become available, but I knew no shelter will welcome our dogs. I even entertained the possibility that an animal shelter would house my son and I in exchange for walking their dogs in order to keep our family of four together. I could not make the pieces fit, so I drove them to Muttville in San Francisco
where I’d heard dogs roamed free in a large comfortable house complete with dog sized couches and toys amongst the workspaces of staff who lovingly doted on their emotional and physical needs while they waited to be adopted.
I keep the front windows cracked in our vehicle when we sleep because even at night in the middle of September it is sweltering hot. Being on guard 24/7 means I don’t sleep deeply. I’ve learned to recognize the cries of 6 different children in the night and know whose child is waiting for comfort or waking from a nightmare. Having no place private to pee in the middle of the night is an uncomfortable reality. I am too scared to close my car door to relieve myself for fear that my son will awaken to a dark and empty car, and too scared to drag him out of bed and carry him into a pitch black outhouse.
Baby River usually wakes when I start to shift. He too has become a light sleeper, and I wonder how much of his development will be stunted as a result of this social ill. I know he has learned the routine because he says “leave the door open” in his groggy voice. I worry about his safety when I cross five parking spaces to pee in the bushes at the corner of the lot, and scoff at whoever came up with the name “Safe Parking Lot.”
There are street lamps and cameras everywhere to provide a false sense of security. It will not prevent anyone from harming us should they be crazy enough to do so. Sometimes I drop my pants in the middle of the lot in plain sight to relieve myself on the wood chips, like a neighborhood dog, so that I don’t have to leave my son’s side. No one in their right mind would enter the pitch black porta-potty that you could see was covered in shit during the day and risk dropping your pajama bottoms in something that would never wash off your memory even if you could wash up after such a disaster – but of course, without a home we cannot. I have become some wild creature who has stopped caring about modesty.
It is the slow assault of too-much-lack and not-enough-love that makes me question if there is something about us that is unworthy of human dignity. But then I look into the face of this beautiful being that is my son and I know there has never been anything wrong with me or Baby River. We deserve a home, a place to heal, a place to rest.
I’ve memorized the voices and laughter of the children who live here as they run and play, weaving in and out of slow moving traffic. I watch in shock as River’s new best friend, a 4-year-old boy who is street wise beyond his years, chases my car down the driveway to say goodbye for the day. I witness the pride and despair on the faces of parents as they comfort little ones under conditions like the aftermath of war. Our children run barefoot through fanciful “living rooms” that are oil stained and lined for compact cars.
Slowly I become hyper-aware of two things: not a single one of us has ever done anything to deserve raising our children in these conditions; food, clothing and shelter should be basic human rights available to all. The birds, raccoons, and legions of well-fed rats that live with us in the parking lot enjoy as much. We would find it unconscionable for prisoners to go without food, clothing, and shelter, yet most of the people I’ve met while living in this parking lot have committed no crimes other than that of being poor.
Homeless people unsheltered all over this state – I’ve heard numbers as high as 44,000 in L.A.
– are sleeping in random nooks and crannies wherever they can find easy access to bathrooms, showers, drinking water, or a place to eat a hot meal. And it is from this desperate position that we are expected to “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” and “function as productive members of society.”
Sonoma County has bragging rights for being one of the first places in America to inspire interest in tiny homes and the minimalist lifestyle that comes with living in one. I’ve made friends with a roofer living out of his SUV with his wife and child because the housing market is too competitive for his income. The irony is not lost on me. However, he could be the skilled symbol of hope for the tiny house movement.
We must wrestle with the fact that we’ve created a society that puts a dollar amount on our heads and renders 3.5 million people homeless each year, 35% of which are families with children
. That a two income household working at Walmart is going to move from shelter to shelter every few months because the local community hasn’t bothered to rally together and demand fairness and equality for all its citizens.
My elderly friend Jade has been living out of her car for 3 years. She’s clearly suffering from delusions as she hugs everyone in the parking lot goodbye each week insisting that her boyfriend is only moments away from whisking her away to a beautiful home in the mountains. Isn’t it possible that we could combine the talents and inspirations from the eureka state
and put together housing plans that don’t discriminate against the poor, the sick, or the crazy ones
How is it that California hasn’t put the pieces together and recognized that it would be more cost effective to simply provide no strings attached housing for people that are in chronic distress?
The research has already been done.
Even if you don’t care about the discomfort of people living in extreme poverty at least you could vote your own best interest and demand that politicians spend your tax dollars wiser. In the process of saving money we can eliminate the national disgrace of American shanty towns.
Lately I’ve had a recurring dream of tree houses being built by friends in one of the magnificent forests surrounding us. My therapist explained that the reason I’m dreaming so vividly, so frequently, is because I’m not sleeping deeply enough while living in our car. If that’s the case then thank goodness for the lack of sleep, for my lack of ability to look the other way when I pass homeless people on the streets and pretend that this is someone else’s problem.
Remember the old barn raising days? Isn’t it possible that we could gather our friends, some builders and raise a bunch of real, lasting housing solutions for people that need it most? I know there are housing codes, zoning laws
, and rent control
issues that need to be sorted out, but when you consider the fact that zoning regulations have historically kept disenfranchised populations down
it is arguably one of the next important areas of social activism.
Instead of suffering and degradation couldn’t we build tiny house communities
that are surrounded by beautiful food forests maintained by the proud homeowners who have discovered a peaceful path to self-sustainability. In my dreams we have made the earth our living room. Our children run free through herb gardens and climb in and out of treehouses. We have become builders, cultivators of community and a good and gentle life, free to raise our children without the fear that doing so will leave us financially and emotionally crippled in parking lots.
As I’m sure the Lake County wildfire survivors
will agree, sometimes hard times, cruel circumstances, and injustices visit a family or individual through no fault of their own. But you will see that we all are capable people when adversity is met with an equal and opposite reaction of love and support. A piece purchased, a piece donated, a piece salvaged with plenty of muscle and goodwill to go around – I am convinced that bunches of at-risk children in families that are spread too thin will not only be housed, but will also be healed by a community that has made their needs a priority. Where there is lacking this fundamental right to our personhood, something so basic as a home, a place to dream beautiful dreams, there can be no peace or justice.”
In Sonoma County, there is a ‘waiting list’ for the Safe Parking program, as well as for the ‘sanctioned’ but still technically illegal Camp Mikela tent camp. Both of these emergency interim housing ‘solutions’ are overflowing. The unmet need indicates that both of these programs need to be expanded by orders of magnitude to fill the ‘demand’.
WHY SECTION 8 HOUSING VOUCHERS ARE NOT THE ANSWER TO SOLVE THE HOMELESS HOUSING CRISIS
In theory, a private, public partnership to solve the homeless housing crisis sounds like a good idea, and in practice it works pretty well. If expanded, Section 8 could even house all of the homeless, especially if the amounts offered matched what the actual rents being charged are. The problem is that the number of vouchers is totally insufficient, and in the Bay area, they are practically worthless, due to no landlord accepting them because they offer too little, compared to the open market rents being paid by willing tenants. Here is a report from a real live homeless mother of two in Sonoma County……..
“To get Section 8 housing means enduring a 5 – 7 year wait in the Bay Area. The waiting list is even longer if you count the time that it takes to sign up. Getting on the list is a mystery since in certain areas sign up stays closed for bizarrely long periods of unpredictable time.
Immediately upon finding out that you’ve finally received your section 8 voucher your relief is turned to panic, at least in Sonoma County, as you discover there are no landlords willing to rent to section 8 applicants and your voucher expiration date looms steady on the horizon.
In fact landlords are evicting section 8 tenants at an alarming rate in Sonoma County in the name of profit, Why not double the rent and have less government oversight while attracting tech overflow from San Francisco? “
Housing should be a human right, not something subject to the whims of landlords and limited housing supply.
EXISTING LOW INCOME HOUSING STOCK IS TOTALLY INSUFFICIENT
Burbank Housing is a huge source of affordable housing in many cities, but again, the problem is a lack of supply and a huge overwhelming demand that totally overwhelms existing affordable housing. No matter how many they have built, it is not enough. Bottom line, it comes down to dollars coming in are not enough to build sufficient rental or ‘owned’ housing that low or very low income individuals can move into.
It has been estimated that approximately 60 million dollars will have to be raised via bond issues in order to build enough permanent housing units to house the estimated 2,000 homeless that have absolutely no shelter at night, just in Sonoma County. There is a ten year plan to accomplish this goal, but as of the date of this article, that money has not yet been applied for, and it takes years to apply for permits, sign contracts and then build new housing units. Meanwhile, the homeless (including many children) wait, out in the cold, the rain, and being exposed to the elements.
SHELTERS AND HOMELESSNESS RESULTS IN ACE FOR THE CHILDREN; HOUSING FILLS A HEALTHCARE NEED
“ACEs or Adverse Childhood Experiences is the term coined by the CDC which points to the long-term physical and mental health outcomes of children that had to endure abuse, abandonment, neglect, incarcerated parent, drug or alcohol addiction in the home, divorce, and the surprise factor – extreme poverty.
Extreme poverty in the US consists of emergency shelter hopping and car camping for years on end. The effect on children results in things like chronic depression, anxiety, ADD, diabetes, heart disease, substance abuse, or suicide… to name a few. It is unconscionable that we set our children up for failure and poor health because our ‘modern’ society would rather look the other way than admit there is an emergency problem. Housing is health care!
Did you know that there is a stronger link between childhood trauma and addiction than there is between obesity and diabetes? Two-thirds of addicts report being abused as children. That means that the war on drugs and the corresponding “get clean before you get housing” attitude espoused by most homeless shelters and advocacy groups is a war on traumatized people that just need help. Housing first!” by River King
River has a dream of raising money to build a tiny home; see details at; http://www.gofundme.com/2x74dze2
ACLU SAYS THE COUNTY AND CITIES ARE NOT DOING ENOUGH, TOO MUCH TALKING AND NOT ENOUGH ACTION
ACLU urges Orange County to ramp up homeless efforts, urging county to end criminalizing the homeless. The American Civil Liberties Union is taking on homelessness in Orange County, saying county leaders are not doing enough to solve some of the systemic issues surrounding the issue.
Litigation is an option and last resort, if other efforts do not succeed. Counties and cities have resources to address the COMPLETE need to house all homeless people in any given community, but the caring, political will, and moral outrage is still lacking.
Litigation in several cities has resulted in at least a small beginning to solving the homeless crisis in America, but even that is not enough to solve this emergency. What is really lacking is the caring, moral outrage and political will to solve this crisis. All of the answers, as well as the money is there to solve this.
12 Ways To End ALL Homelessness, Via A Policy Makers And Faith Community Toolbox; Decriminalize Sleeping In Public Places, Legalize Tent Encampments, Interim Housing Methods
Housing The Homeless Children Challenge Via Housing Ladder; Why Can’t They All Be Sheltered For $2.00 Per Day, Per Person, In Tiny Homes? HUD Study On Tiny Homes As Solution For Homeless Housing
Utah Has Virtually Ended Chronic Homelessness By Providing People With Homes
5 Cities/States Passed A Local Proclamation Of Emergency Or Civil Emergency; Portland, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Hawaii – To Address The Growing Disaster Called The Homeless Crisis
A Place At The Table; Why Does America Rank DEAD LAST Among Civilized Nations For Number Of People In Hunger?
33 Biblical Verses That Mandate Helping The Homeless And Solving The Homeless Emergency Crisis; No Solution Means A Permanent Untouchables Caste System Just Like India
Homeless Criminalized; Baltimore Evicted Homeless Using Prison Labor, Misappropriated 10 Million Dollars Slated For Providing Housing For Homeless
Traumatic Brain Injury Is Cause Of 50 Percent Of Men Becoming Homeless And Approximately 40 Percent Of All Homeless Men Are Veterans
Why More Emergency Housing Shelters, Tent Camps, Safe Parking, And Section 8 Are Not The Answer For Housing All Of The Homeless
US Incarceration Rate, Prison Mistakes, Prison Reform, Restorative Justice As Alternative, Decarcaration
ALEC Sponsored Private For Profit Chinese Style Prison Labor Camps, Or Alternatives To Violence Project; Which is Better?
The worst ‘solution’ is doing nothing, and/or bulldozing existing camps and pushing the homeless around from one place to another, while ignoring the multiple issues involved, as the homeless crisis gets worse and worse.
What is needed is a permanent housing solution for all of the homeless, with interim solutions to house all of the homeless in the shorter term. It is important to understand that interim solutions are just that, a poor and temporary band aid to a homeless crisis that is growing in depth and breadth all across America.
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