Friday, September 24, 2010

The county and city mustn't shirk their responsiblities to homeless citizens

It is crucial that Sacramento County and the city of Sacramento not abandon their responsibility to look out for homeless people in our metropolis.

A Bee board editorial, "New partnership needed for homeless," published on Sept 15, has everything backwards. It is written in support of an effort, by the county and city, to create a “new countywide or regional joint powers authority/public-private partnership” to handle and coordinate the critical task of aiding homeless people and saving them from suffering and harm.

Such a concocted powerful agency will directly deny homeless people government oversight to protect their interests.

Such an agency, composed in significant part by executives from Christian nonprofits to beg for money and aid from Christian church groups, is an affront to what is a cornerstone of our republic: the separation of church and state. Homeless people are citizens and have a right to secular government oversight. An effort to create an authority as foreseen by the Bee board should be opposed on Constitutional grounds.

Besides: Christian-church people are not a backstop to fill in when a government group chooses to shirk one of its highest responsibilities to, instead, satisfy the wants of more-affluent citizens who have the ear of the politicos and contribute to their campaign warchests.

Christian churches, themselves, have been badly affected by the bad economy.  An article in the New York Times, today, titled "Congregations Reeling From Decline in Donations," tells us "across the congregational landscape of America. From storefront chapels to Sun Belt megachurches to suburban synagogues, across denominational lines, religious institutions are reeling from a decline in donations."  Surely, nowhere are matters worse than in our struggling county, that has particularly high unemployment and where state workers are being furloughed.

The state, the county and city have made wrong decisions that don't give the most import issues highest priority.  Helping the poor and homeless should be at or near the top of any priority list, not something that can be abandoned.

Many of the homeless-service nonprofits have expanded their empires in recent years while the regional governments and citizens have suffered in our bad economy. Some homeless-service nonprofits focus on themselves, exclusively, providing terrible, stinting service to homeless people.

Please. Let us not put the jackels in charge.  Let us maintain direct oversight from the county of homeless services it funds (and let us see services being funded!)  And let there be direct interest in homeless matters coming from the city, with funds forthcoming in difficult times.

[This is a slightly altered and augmented copy of a piece I submitted to the Bee a week ago that, by their non-response response, I have learned they chose not to publish as "Another View."]

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