Saturday, July 9, 2016

Massive sum of money coming next year to aid Sacramento County homeless population

A major article in the Sacramento Bee, today [July 8, 2016], written by Anita Chabria, " 'Millions' may aid homeless housing," is about aid coming as result of Sacramento mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg's state-senate bill that will pump $2 Billion into state-counties' coffers to address the needs of homeless and other distressed citizens.

Steinberg will take office as Sacramento's next mayor in December. The county of Sacramento [and not the city council that Steinberg will lead] will receive a big sum of funds early in 2017.

But, in the article, Steinberg proclaims that he intends to “lead personally on [the] issue [of getting homeless people and mentally-challenged people into housing].”

And, quoting the article (again),
[Steinberg] is “confident” that he’ll be able to help “establish a new and heightened level of collaboration between the city of Sacramento, the county of Sacramento and our entire region. … We are going to go aggressively after our share of these couple billion dollars,” he added.
Getting hundreds of millions [or, whatever Sac county’s share turns out to be] is amazing, dazzling even. But the danger here is one Sacramento [city & county] seem always to have. They succeed at making money meant to save homeless folk disappear plenty fast that does an inadequate amount of good.

Basically, the politicians – how ever much moxie they have in covering over problems with barrels of gold pixie dust – don’t see what’s needed through homeless people’s eyes.

Infamously, Steinberg’s soon-to-be predecessor in the mayor’s post, Kevin Johnson, was met, early in his first term, with a problem when Sacramento was international news as the supposed forerunner of The Great Depression II. Journalists and celebrities and other notables – including an Oprah surrogate and Michael Moore -- swooped into our city to investigate the horror of it all.

What really happened was that homeless campers through-out Sacramento were rousted and the great majority ended up in a massive campground out past Blue Diamond that by the people gathering there was first dubbed “The Wasteland,” but was renamed by local pols, for the sake of gentleness, “Tent City.” Mayor J and the council at one point tossed a quick million dollars at the “problem” [which in the eyes of the pols was the bad international publicity, not the suffering campers] and declared victory. Of course, whatever became of the million smackers never mattered since the mere suggestion of helping the campers with a seven-figure amount of benefit was The All.

As I say, I think it’s great that a big pool of money is expected to arrive next year that we may hope will be spent to restore homeless people to meaningful lives by, first, giving them proper housing.

I rightly worry, though, that a significant – GIGANTIC, even – portion of the money will be wasted on doing the same-old, same-old, which includes,
(1) pushing too many people into too-little space, and considering THAT a successful household or (in the aggregate) a successful apartment full of homeless, mentally troubled and very low income folks living together.
(2) Making homeless people take lots and lots of classes and go to lots and lots of meetings that exist to create paying jobs for homeless-charity-connected teachers and  counselors  that don’t give homeless people what they want or really need.
(3) Failing to give homeless people free time to get acclimated to (what we may hope) is the dazzling circumstance of “a life more ordinary” where they can hear the birds outside tweeting and take a bubble bath and go to a local dining spot that they hadn’t been to in five years because they wouldn’t have felt clean and respectable enough to go there.
(4) A toilet that travels around and costs a fortune.
We need to give homeless people the time to sort out what they want to do with their re-booted life with a solid floor under their feet and the right and the willpower to have a wholesome, happy day.

We should expect that many homeless people will give up a lot of who they were when they were homeless and will emerge with new friends, new interests and associate themselves with exciting projects and a determination to succeed in the new life they’ve taken on.

We can expect that others will retain attachments to many of their old friends, including old friends that got into a lot of trouble and got them into a lot of trouble. We may worry that drinking and drugging will pull some formerly homeless people down from the perch of a rebooted life and the stability we had hoped they’d acquire. We must allow for that. [Adults should have the room to maneuver such that they will make what we 'outsiders to others' complicated lives' perceive to be mistakes.]

I deeply hope that the county supes, or a county/city homeless taskforce or a team at Sac Steps Forward or the spare tag team of “Darrell & Emily” pull together a board, of a sort – that consists of the most-knowledgeable, done-everything, most-insightful homeless people to clue in the policy-writers what best things should be done to house homeless people, make ‘em happy, and give this vastly important project the very, very best chance of success for everybody.

I would also hope that the pols will allow themselves to be exposed to thinking from outsiders and innovators. The pols should not limit themselves, particularly so re a topic [i.e., homelessness] that they are sure to know much less about than they suppose.

Steinberg and the other pols who will try to determine how best to use funds made available to help homeless folk and mentally-challenged people should consider utilizing Design Thinking. Here is a pdf,  Introduction to Design Thinking from Stanford University: Process Guide.

Below is a twelve minute TED Talk video "When we design for disability we all benefit," by Elise Roy, a profoundly deaf woman whose disability has been a profound plus for her in visualizing ideas that can help others who are deaf AND in finding new ideas because her disability is a springboard for thinking outside the box. "I believe that losing my hearing was one of the greatest gifts I've ever received," says Elise Roy.

Likewise, I am sure, being mentally challenged or homeless open up surprising insights that should be considered. All it takes is to ask homeless folk and others "So, what do you think?"


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