Twenty-four years ago I was one of the four pioneers who started formalizing the process of addressing homelessness in San Diego which is now known as the San Diego CoC. I used to go to a lot of the meetings like the one discussed in this article published today in the Union Tribune.
Over the next few years I saw that the entire system was designed to contain homelessness…like it was a disease…where the homeless had to be put somewhere and then dealt with. The symptoms of homelessness, which would manifest into the need for food, shelter and even compassionate and emergency social service care, would get addressed. But time and time again I would notice that the food and the shelter and the hugs would only meet the first 5% of what these human beings really needed. Yet this constant cycle, which I later named The Churn, would spin over and over and over.
And because only the symptoms would get met, the real problems would never get addressed and so predictably, the homeless numbers would grow. Seeing this dynamic play out time and time again and then studying it from the funding side and then also the public policy side…it hit me like a ton of bricks. The whole system had operationalized and systematized around an underlying dynamic that I had learned a lot about as a professional in the addiction treatment and recovery field, which I had served in for many years as a counselor before I jumped into the homeless issue.
That dynamic is referred to as codependency and it was oftentimes one of the most difficult issues we would have to deal with when helping the addict or alcoholic. You see, the condition of addiction is very hard to progress without codependents, without the spouse, family member, friend or coworker enabling the addict. Of course those closest to the person should care greatly, but through this caring and compassion it is an unfortunate reality that they get locked into and become part of the sickness. There are hundreds of books written on this dynamic and all of them call for the codependent to heal and detach and allow the hurting person to feel the full brunt of their addiction, without “helping” them! Helping, in the traditional sense, actually hurts! By detaching with real compassion and allowing the addict to feel the full natural consequences, positive change can come, and will often come fully and very quickly.
Do you see the connection?
The Churn is fueled by a fully operationalized codependent system. It’s taken on a life of its own. And as we see again, the case now is being made that there is an even more urgent need, so there is a demand for more money, more helpers, more, more more.
So The Churn will now be fed more. See my short video description of The Churn here.
I would often stand up in the meetings and say stuff like, “hey guys what if instead of more money and resources what if we changed the way we think about this problem…what if we changed the design?” But the notion of admitting that we were collectively actually feeding The Churn, that we were really codependent and enabling homelessness would be scoffed at and later I would be dismissed as “that guy.” Today, those whom I am called to serve nearly all understand this logic and agree with this point of view. But the homeless advocates and their public sector supporters (many whom are surprisingly the same social engineers who built The Churn) still dismiss this theory. Lately they have been upping their attacks on me personally and on Solutions for Change.
Eventually I left the meetings and focused on what I could have influence over which was architecting our own programs based on a redesign. Solutions for Change became that redesign.
Now The Churn is massive. Look at the numbers of homeless. And, the same social engineers are now crying for this new way called Housing First. But look at the change they ask for…they want to take hurting people and move them behind a door in “permanent housing” paid for by the taxpayer…indefinitely. With, and get this….no strings attached.
So now there is a frenzied effort to get over 1000 units of housing where we can pluck the homeless off the streets and move them out of sight. Sounds like an evolved design of the same thing, right? It’s a newly fashioned containment design.
So back to what we learned two decades ago which was that symptom relief doesn’t solve the underlying causes of what got the person homeless. Providing someone a no strings attached apartment where they can continue to use drugs, be dependent and abuse their children is just a refined method of containment. So in my mind, this is San Diego raising the white flag and, very possibly, fully surrendering to The Churn by jumping All-In on a massive codependency operation under a new banner called Housing First.
If you agree then please forward this to your elected representative. Ask them not to endorse housing first programs for homeless families without also supporting other programmatic options like the life changing services provided by organizations like Solutions for Change. The one-size-fits-all polices and practices coming down from our federal and state government are threatening community based privately led solutions. We need your help!