When homeless problems arose in Ukiah 30 or so years ago, citizens responded by giving handfuls of spare change to people on the outs.
This was back when a couple guys assumed daily positions out near freeway ramps with “Will Work for Food” signs, a good joke we all knew was false advertising. They stood hours in the hot sun, earned maybe $20, and the joke was on everyone.
But posters started to appear around town warning us not to give bums spare change. It was counterproductive, they said. “Give a Hand Up, Not a Handout” went the phrase, meaning stop giving aimless drifters spare change because all they’ll do is buy booze and cigarettes and maybe even some dope.
Giving a lost soul a dollar kept him trapped in a never-ending cycle of poverty and despair and homelessness, they said. There is a better answer. There is a solution. Don’t waste your money. It’s counterproductive.
Let us take care of it.
Yes, let the professionals take care of the homeless problem. Step back, keep your change in your pocket, your dollar in your wallet, and allow highly trained experts utilizing the latest scientific methodologies apply proven solutions to help the homeless.
So funding for nonprofit agencies, all run by well-educated social workers who knew the best and latest strategies in making sure homelessness was “brief, rare and one-time,” was accepted as the answer.
Solutions were simple, they said. Proposals presented to the public were guaranteed to produce results once various groups were given sufficient funding to network with other agencies, then collaborate and provide a variety of much-needed services.
Job training was a major component, along with rehabilitation programs and mental health services. Plowshares and the Ford Street Project were already in place, and next came the Buddy Eller House, vouchers, crisis units, “street medicine” and more.
Much, much more.
People in Ukiah accepted that when it came to a national problem like this, it was best to leave the hard work to the experts with training and experience. It made no sense to muck things up giving a buck to some guy so he could crawl under a bridge and then into a bottle and undo all the enormous progress he’d made earlier that day with a highly skilled professional counselor.
And so we all stood by while clear-thinking guides using established techniques passed down from knowledgeable sociologists at leading colleges and universities put Ukiah on a path to reducing the homeless population.
It’s 2020 and what have those sharp-thinking, well-educated, highly professional homeless advocates brought to Ukiah? A disgrace and a disaster, that’s what. Not a single citizen would say, unless laughing, that our homeless situation is improved compared with the 1990s.
We’ve spent many, many millions of dollars and our streets are far, far worse. Ukiah is overrun with druggies, crazies, arsonists and tragedy.
For the latest example on how we’re “solving” homelessness visit the Burning Bridges shelter-type hangout on South State Street. Drive down and look. Keep your windows rolled up.
Now another proposed solution will spend many more millions with a rock-solid guarantee to make our homeless problem worse. You read that right. Read it again: More money, worse outcomes. Guaranteed. The county is purchasing a big motel on North Orchard costing $11 million and requiring expensive upgrades (two sinks in each room? Kitchens?) to provide much-needed shelter and services and blah blah blah for 56 homeless folks. Our leaders are crowing about bold steps and innovative thinking.
How much have all these programs for homelessness cost state and local budgets in the past 30 years? Now show us one unambiguous success, a single set of numbers proving these hotshot social workers ever solved a problem they promised to solve.
But of course their work is not yet done. There is more to do. Always more. Our goals in solving all of society’s problems are noble; they merely require citizens to stop being so stingy with their money. Or, as the city’s Shannon Riley so eloquently stated it:
“Recent actions by local government make Mendocino County eligible for some of the huge pots of money coming down the pipeline—-more money than we have ever seen for the homeless is coming to counties in the next few years.”
NOTE: There are 31 separate agencies in Mendocino County currently soaking up funding to make homelessness brief, rare, and one-time. Sure they are, ha ha.
If homelessness ends tomorrow all those professionals lose their jobs. You think funding for the Burning Bridges facility or to buy a motel for $11 million is meant to end the problem?
At least you didn’t squander a dollar on a State Street panhandler back in 1985.
Can you name a government program that might spend $11 million on you and 55 of your hardworking friends? Tom Hine thinks TWK might be eligible for funding.