An Editorial’s Point Of View

Posted: March 29, 2009 in Bureauacracy, Government, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Hunger, Politics, Stupidity

This past Thursday I published a post titled: "Genuine Solutions or Temporary Fixes?" It was about the upcoming dismantling of Sacramento’s tent city – which had been spotlighted on the Oprah Winfrey Show several weeks ago.

In it, I questioned Sacramento’s seemingly quick call to action regarding trying to provide shelter and other forms of assistance to the encampments residents. I questioned the motive behind the city council’s rapid approval of nearly $1 million dollars to increase the number of available shelter beds. I also questioned both, California’s Governor Schwarzenegger’s visit to the tent city and his offer of trying to find additional state funding to help those who will be required to vacate the area.  

In my post I posed these questions:

"However, I have to wonder if he would have moved as quickly had the city’s Tent City not made national (and international) headlines after it had been spotlighted on The Oprah Winfrey Show several weeks back.

Are they really interested in addressing homelessness? Or, are they just trying to wriggle themselves out of the media spotlight through perfunctory actions?"

Imagine my surprise when, on the follow day, I came across an editorial in the Sacramento Bee which had a similar theme as my post. Of particular interest to me was this statement:

"Make no mistake about it: The city’s response is largely an effort to end the embarrassing spectacle of Sacramento’s tent city, which has garnered international media attention, most recently on the front page of the New York Times. It may take months to determine if this will evolve into a wide-ranging and sustained effort to end and prevent homelessness or just be another exercise in damage control."

It seems that I was not the only one who thought the city’s "fast tracking" things a bit suspicious.

There was another paragraph which caught my attention.

"… it’s easy to say you want to end or reduce homelessness, but doing so is another matter. This community and this country have a long history of convening homeless commissions, writing reports and forming strategies. All the while, the homeless are rousted from encampments under the guise of doing what is in their best interests."

I couldn’t agree more – especially in light of an article I read earlier this month in The Times-Standard out of Eureka, California. It was a clear example of how so many cities waste more time talking about helping the homeless instead of actually doing so.

The Times-Standard article, No more homelessness: Coalition releases phase one of plan, has to do with that city’s 10-year plan to end homelessness.

It seems that local officials and bureaucrats are awfully proud of what they’ve accomplished thus far. Although – after reading the article – I thought their self-praise to be rather foolish and ill-founded. In fact, there were two things about Eureka’s "phase one" which made me shake my head in disgust.

First was the length of time it took to reach phase one: almost three years!

According to the article,

"The local effort got under way in 2006 after the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Executive Director Philip Mangano spoke about the drafting of such a plan during a visit to Humboldt County."

The second thing which made me shake my head is what phase one actually entailed: a document. That’s it. Nothing more. Just a document.

To quote Fox Olson, who is co-chair of the area’s Housing and Homeless Coalition,

"The way I’m looking at phase one, we have a foundation document. The greater coalition’s job is to inspect this first document and, ultimately, take it to the next level – implement the strategies to end or prevent homelessness."

What the… ?

If it took Eureka three years to just get to the point where they had "a foundation document," I can only imagine how long it’s going to take them "… to inspect this first document and, ultimately, take it to the next level."

Hell, at the pace their moving, by the time they get around to actually helping their homeless the 10-year plan might very well be twenty years old.

When are politicians and bureaucrats – at every level of government – going to realize that the time for talking is long past? When are they going to stop putting together committees; appointing commissions; and creating tons of worthless paperwork just to study the issue?

More importantly: when are they going to actually start doing what they brag about planning to do?

I agree that there is a need for long term plans to not only reduce homelessness, but to try and prevent it in the future. But we also have to recognize that the homeless need immediate and effective assistance in the here and now.

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