It is very important to understand that the increase in homelessness and property crimes is happening by design, due to State of California’s legislative overreach that is handcuffing local cities.
For nearly two decades I have been warning of the traps of symptom relief when it comes to dealing with the homeless issue. In fact, in 1999 we called ourselves Solutions for Change for this exact reason. I use the phrase “symptom relief” to refer to the concept known as a “Band-Aid” approach
Solutions for Change has developed, delivered and mastered interventions that the homeless consistently validate as highly effective. If a person uses drugs or alcohol, becomes addicted and homeless on the street, then the intervention must address their addiction. Yes, these interventions can be tough, but our program has used them for years and they really do work when you know what you are doing. By helping the person deal with the causative factor, the symptom of homelessness becomes resolved.
Sadly, the intervention that our local homeless systems use is something different. In fact, they do the exact opposite of what many who are addicted and on the streets need to heal and recover.
In 2008 federal and state government began to progressively issue mandates to local communities on how they must intervene on the homeless issue. They did this by giving incentives of billions of dollars that intervene into an addiction problem with a no-strings-attached housing intervention. IE: Billion-dollar Band-Aid policies were issued focused on the symptom of homelessness, not on the root cause of addiction.
Many recovering addicts attest to the fact that the worst thing you can do to a person struggling with addiction is to enable them with Band-Aids and handouts. The helper actually hurts and in many cases can unintentionally create horrendous conditions that severely injure and even kill the addict. In the field of addiction, they have named this dynamic. It is called codependency.
California’s homeless response system has done something that we believe is enormously dangerous. The state has systematized and operationalized codependency through a new design that provides tax payer funded no-strings-attached drug housing for the homeless addict. The intervention they are using is a housing intervention with the misguided logic that the addict will decide, at some point, to get sober. The addict can now continue to use drugs in “free” government housing, commit property crimes to support their habit and have a place for other addicts to congregate.
Sadly, the same public sector architects of this design have also decriminalized possession of drugs, even hard drugs like heroin and meth. A person caught with 3 grams of heroin (30 uses) is considered to have “personal use” and let go. Police officers are going on record all over California saying that we are in a full blown crisis caused by the confluence of multiple government policies that focus on the wrong thing: they focus almost entirely on symptoms.
Faced with selling out our core values and keeping our government funding or giving it all up, we gave up 100% state and federal service funding. We are now one of the few nonprofits in the entire state who can speak out about these things freely, which is what we have chosen to do.
I hope this helps folks understand what you are (really) up against. You can always reach me via email to learn more about what we are doing to help our communities fight this tragedy.
Chris Megison Founding President/CEO SOLUTIONS FOR CHANGE