Is San Antonio's example in the treatment and help provided to its homeless something Sacramento should strive to follow?
"People in San Antonio got rid of their homeless by tellin' them what a great place Sacramento was!"
-- From the script of South Park, season 11, episode 1107, "Night of the Living Homeless" [video at IMDB]
Well. Maybe. The ever-green foliage in our City of Trees may well have been, and may be, a lure for a few rare homeless folk from south-central Texas ... and elsewhere ... to come here. But the tide might turn, now. Eastward, ho! Sac'to homeless folk may be headed to Texas.
San Antonio's new, massive [37 acres! 15 buildings! Cost a hundred million smackers!] central homeless-help facility is a ginormous achievement, and is all the more impressive — beyond mere 'beyond belief' — because its opening happened a few days ago in this wretched economy. Only, the wretched economy that those of us here in Sacramento are having ain't the economy in the thriving, better-governed state of Texas.
But HOW did they do it? And is Haven for Hope the cutting edge of homeless help as it should happen here and everywhere? And what is Haven for Hope going to do that is both inventive and productive at getting their homeless people inventive (at re-tooling their lives) and productive? And where might we stand to have that kind of mega-bucks fall out of the sky into our soiled, needy hands, to either (1) copy San Antonio's example or (2) pay out $35,714 to each of the 2800 of us such that we may retool our lives (or drink ourselves to death) without need of our local homeless-help industry!?
•The Haven for Hope Campus is made up of 15 Buildings, on 37 Acres, with almost a half a million square feet of service space under roof.
•Haven for Hope currently has a network of service provision with 78 non-profit and government Partner Agencies
•On any given night there will be roughly 1600 individuals residing on the Haven for Hope Campus.
|Rank in US|
Pop. in 2009
|Pop in 2009||Per capita|
last 9 yrs.
|San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX|
|Source of metropolis population data, rankings & growth rates comes from Wikipedia's Table of United States Metropolitan Statistical Areas.|
Source of 'Per capita income' data comes from Wikipedia pages Sacramento metropolitan area and Greater San Antonio.
1 Jan. 2009 Street Count survey of Sacramento County. [source: the DHA Report on Street Count 2009; specifically the table at the bottom of page 2.] The County population was 1,374,724 (source) in 2006, roughly 2/3rds of that of the greater metropolis.
2 2007 "inventory" of homeless nighttime services in City of San Antonio. [source: Dec 19, 2008, article in newspaper Community Impact, titled "Homeless population moves north"] The City population in 2008 was 1,351,305 (source), roughly 2/3rds that of the greater metropolis it's in.
... and yet, while homeless help is in meltdown in Sacramento [metropolis, county & city] things are hummin' in San Antone!
How it happened: In 2006, then-San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger appointed William E. Greehey to head a committee to study the homelessness issue in San Antonio and recommend solutions to the problem. Greehey is a prominent Republican, chairman of NuStar Energy and former CEO and chairman of Valero Energy Corporation.
The committee intensively researched homelessness and sought the most-successful practices at combatting it and transforming poor people's lives.
Then, an ocean of money was raised from a wide variety of sources.
The one big difference between Sacramento and San Antonio is that Sacramento has, so far, missed out on the economic recovery. We're listed, in Business Insider, as one of 20 such flailing cities. Meantime, San Antonio is in Texas which is booming right along in Recovery heaven. And while we have one of the 20 weakest economies (of the 100 biggest US metro areas), San Antonio is one of the 20 strongest, according to a March Brookings report. A recent article in Slate, "Lone Star: Why Texas is doing so much better economically than the rest of the nation," tells us Texas's economic health is because the state embraces globalization [its exports surpass California, now], didn't suffer a housing-price bubble because of the open spaces there, and because of energy resources. The funny thing is that the energy isn't gushing crude [where production is now half what it was two decades ago] but wind and natural gas. Thus, San Antonio, in Texas, can attempt and succeed at things Sacramento cannot imagine in 2010.
BTW, Haven for Hope isn't Texas's only new, innovative, compassionate homeless-help facility that dazzles. There is also The Bridge Homeless Assistance Center in Dallas, financed by a city bond. A change.org article from January, "Shelters Enter the 21st Century," tells us "The Bridge, open 24/7, is a hub for the services of dozens of local organizations. Among its goals are providing emergency care for 700 homeless people, emergency housing for 350 and permanent housing for 125 every four months. It removes the barriers of some other shelters by offering health care, laundry, recreational activities, storage, a kennel, stable mailing addresses, veterans benefits assistance and more." The Bridge is also very green. "Design features that optimize daylight and reuse water and a roof partially covered by vegetation helped it get LEED silver certification [from the US Green Building Council], making it just the fourth 'green' shelter in the country."
H4H's aim [as described at Business Wire]: Haven for Hope is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of homeless people in the San Antonio area by providing a wide array of necessary social services in a convenient central location. Its mission is to help reduce homelessness in the San Antonio area by providing homeless people the resources, skills and assistance necessary to become self-sufficient in a dignified manner that’s efficient and cost-effective.
Why it can't happen here: For good or ill [and I would say 'ill,' obviously 'ill'], the Sacramento homeless-help industry is firmly controlled by fringe-communist wackos: Commie lawyers, commie admirerers of Dorothy Day, commie nonprofit executives. Raising large sums of money as can happen in Texas can't happen here, even if the economy here got to be as healthy as it is in San Antone.
But, then, I have considerable doubt that $100 million can be used effectively at combatting homelessness, anywhere, for the simple reason that it is far too much money!
Also, the way up and out, to my mind, includes pivotal policy adjustments that are relatively inexpensive to implement and would best help the majority of cognitively-unimpaired homeless people: (1) Give us a place to store our stuff and a way to look employable. (2) Stop wasting our time with endless, pointless meetings and hour upon hour of waiting waiting waiting and (3) the one factor that envelopes all the problems: END THE PHILOSOPHY OF "WAREHOUSING THE RABBLE"; move to a policy of widening the pathway to opportunities.
As for those who are addicts, something must be done about the easy access they have to a designation of being "disabled" and the SSI funds that then are made available to addicts, in the amount of ~ $900/mo. The public is funding people's suicidal addictions, sending money to Mexico (marajuana), Columbia (cocaine), Wisconsin (beer), and Afganistan (heroin), and helping to kill policeman (because of the illegal-substances black market). It's insane. The federal and local governments [and core homeless-help nonprofits] are in the misery-creating business; this must end. This madness is little reported on. I cannot understand it. One possible solution is to have a percentage of SSI payments come as housing vouchers.
As for those who are afflicted with mental illnesses. They should be helped! Everyone, very much including Sacramento's homeless-help charities, do not do nearly enough. Mentally ill people remain lost, out of the streets, ignored, abandoned. What the hell!?!?!?
Things that should happen here: Many of the ideas afloat in Sacramento are really just stopgap. A "SafeGround" Tuff Shed village will work sort of and then all the problems with substance abuse and violence will sink it, either because the cost of addressing the problems is too expensive or because the village becomes an eyesore or an obvious slum.
The idea of putting homeless people in housing will put many on the road to better, productive lives, but it is more expensive than what is needed and creates problems since we end up giving non-working homeless people more than what a follows-all-the-rules works-full-time stressed and struggling minimum-wage worker gets. We must honor workers and not screw up the incentives of hard work.
Better would be to require that affordable housing be available for all the poor. This can come from legislation that requires that builders include small, affordable homes and apartments in new construction.