Paying a high price for housing is the reality of living in Orange County. It always has been.
The cost of housing impacts all of us. But those most affected are the families who are no longer able to provide shelter for themselves because of the dramatic increase in the rent they pay.
As John Seiler points out in his March 13 Orange County Register editorial below, the facts are evident. Homelessness in Orange County has increased, and the increase is directly attributed to the cost of housing.
So how do we respond to this reality of our neighbors becoming homeless, and the effects it has on our communities?
Read the article below, and go to the Orange County Rescue Mission’s website for more information. www.RescueMission.org
Less bureaucracy, more private housing
LEONARD ORTIZ, OC REGISTER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
A couple days ago, I took a break from the Register and drove to the Starbucks on 17th Street and Grand Avenue in Santa Ana, where I saw three homeless people. I’ve seen many more in Orange County in recent weeks, commonly at freeway off-ramps, begging for money. Are homeless numbers really up?
“Yes, that’s an easy one,” Chet Parker told me; the deputy Orange County sheriff is homeless liaison officer for the city of Lake Forest. “The economy and high housing costs are just a giant piece of it. People who normally might be homeless for one or two months are remaining longer.”
The reason, he said, is they more often are “burning their bridges with their family” and friends, with whom they have stayed temporarily. They move into their cars, but soon can’t make loan payments or pay for repairs or even gas. Then, “they have nothing and are out on the street.”
By the numbers, he helped 26 homeless last year in Lake Forest, and seven so far this year, which works out to 37 for all 2016 if the trend continues – a 42 percent increase. About 70 percent of the homeless “have some degree of mental illness that may be from drugs and alcohol.”
His experience is confirmed by Jim Palmer, president of the Orange County Rescue Mission. “We’re seeing it all across the county,” he told me Wednesday “For example, in Newport Beach, all of a sudden we’re seeing a lot of homeless. For the last 12 months, we’re at 100 percent of occupancy” in the mission’s Village of Hope shelter in Tustin, with 192 beds. “Tonight it’s 104 percent.” For all campuses, he said, the mission shelters about 500 homeless “on any given night.”
Part of the problem, he said, is for the past four years “the federal government has put all its eggs in one basket, for rapid rehousing. But that’s at most 25 percent of the homeless. The other 75 percent need a higher level of care.”
That’s the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, which the website of the Department of Housing and Urban Development describes as “short-term or medium-term rental assistance and housing relocation and stabilization services.” The money funds “mediation, credit counseling, security or utility deposits, utility payments, moving cost assistance and case management.”
Before the aid gets to the homeless, HUD explains, it’s churned through the federal bureaucracy, then to the bureaucracies of “metropolitan cities, urban counties and states for distribution to local governments and private nonprofit organizations.”
Looks like another misguided use of federal taxpayers’ dollars at variance with what’s going on at the local level. It’s happened on the watch of both Democratic President Obama and the Republican-led House of Representatives.
Instead, in addition to a long-term focus, “what’s needed is more private housing, not government housing,” Palmer said.
The cause of the crisis, which is occurring during economic growth? “There’s not a single reason,” Palmer said. “But there’s a lot of bad government,” in particular California’s absurdly tight regulations on housing construction – something I’ve written about in the past – and which is advanced by what, in these pages, Joel Kotkin has branded “gentry liberals.” Alas, that’s unlikely to change.
What can be done? As a Thursday Register story reported, many of the homeless are veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. So we need presidents who don’t engage in unwise wars, such as those in Afghanistan (except for the limited goal of going after terrorist Osama bin Laden) and Iraq. They are wars almost everyone now acknowledges were disasters, and which the Register opposed from the start.
We need more private housing aid. And Parker advised, “Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver to the homeless. And always deliver on your promises. Otherwise you can kiss them goodbye.”
By JOHN SEILER / OC Register Staff Writer