Follow Up on Homelessness Forum
Last week, I was the only candidate from the 31st District to attend the Pierce County Homeless Coalition candidate forum.
Effective solutions require that we not view homeless people as a problem, but rather homeless people with problems. Drug addiction, lack of available housing, mental illness, criminal records, domestic violence, and other problems are at the root of the crisis. We have to make gains in these areas if we can effectively transition people into housing. To simply provide housing, and not address the reason why someone became homeless in the first place, is problematic. This requires comprehensive and multi-faceted solutions. We must facilitate sobriety, health, and prosperity. Policies which invest money to simply create space for homelessness are counterproductive also. We need to pave a path of opportunity out of homelessness and let people decide whether they are willing to do the work to take it. Simply throwing cash at a complex problem or self-sabotaging behavior is wasteful.
Exporting our homeless persons to Seattle and highly urban areas puts people of little means in a very expensive city with little opportunity. I can’t see that as a recipe for success. Our individual communities need to be providing resources to prevent people from falling into homelessness in the first place and be ready with an action plan when they do. It is far more affordable and effective to deal with things at a critical point while people are still in their community of origin, rather than when they have fallen into homelessness in a city where they have little familiarity or social/family support.
Affordable housing is an issue. Affordable housing need not be built by government, nor paid for it. Zoning and land use laws are very prohibitive of building high density housing or affordable living options outside of highly urban areas. Allowing non-profits and potential developers the ability to create housing that works for people in a place that is affordable to do it (instead of Seattle) is needed. Increasing the housing supply in general will bring down the costs of a living space also. We need more housing, but more importantly we need more diversity in housing options.
There is much we can do to assist people who have become homeless. We have wonderful non-profits working on this issue. Creating lots of government bureaucracy is not cost-effective, flexible, or often accountable for results. We need to figure out how we can empower non-profits to better accomplish their work. There are a number of no-cost items such as zoning and land use changes, criminal justice reforms, and others which would help with the issue of homelessness.