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Dana Point Homeless Task Force Part 1

The issue of Dana Point homelessness is clearly one of the most contentious issues among Dana Pointers. To have a detailed discussion of Dana Point homelessness — and limit the discussion to Dana Point — is nearly impossible.

Discussions of Dana Point homelessness quickly leave the boundaries of the city and shift focus to county or state governments, near-by cities, immigration, crime, drug abuse, mental illness, poverty, law enforcement, the economy, political philosophies, etc. Because the topic of homelessness tends to trigger fear in many people, it seems to pit compassion against security; moral values against property values.

This is the first in a series of articles on the topic of Dana Point homelessness, each of which will address different aspects of the homelessness issue.

Effective measures to ease the suffering associated with homelessness do not easily yield to logic, diligence or even good will. There are, nonetheless, many efforts to provide help, including from religious groups, nonprofit groups, philanthropic individuals, social services, government policies and self-organizing support groups.

To complicate the issue, courts say local ordinances cannot be enforced if those ordinances are broken out of necessity. California cities cannot “criminalize conduct that is an unavoidable consequence of being homeless.” For example, even clearly defined rules against camping cannot be enforced if people are camping out of necessity unless alternatives are provided to satisfy those necessities. Whether one agrees with that ruling or not, it governs both law enforcement and local policy making.

About the Dana Point Homeless Task Force

Later in this article, recent actions taken by the task force are noted. It is worth noting first, however, that this task force exists and has been very active over the past year. Their accomplishments are many, though the results are not so promising, yet.

Dana Point city council began an initiative in 2014 to make improvements on Dana Point homelessness. The effort underwent a reorganization in July 2017. According to councilmember Paul Wyatt:

“The issue of Dana Point homelessness had never made progress because of a lack of leadership over time. Now, 10 months after reorganizing the task force, we have three organizations formally involved. 1) A group within the city government that meets weekly, identifies everyone in need in town and who fully understands all the various services that may be available. 2) The Saturday Service program, which works with those willing to change their situation, and which is run by volunteers as well as faith-based and nonprofit professionals, to connect those in need with methods to rebuild and recover. This is a great start — two organizations who work every week to help those in need. 3) Full-time care coordinators working Monday through Saturday who attempt to meet with each of the homeless twice each week.”

The Dana Point Homeless Task Force is intended to promote programs to move people out of homelessness, not to maintain homelessness.

Homeless Task Force has been formalized, through Resolution 17-09-19-03, for the purposes of working jointly with our neighboring cities, the County of Orange, nonprofit organizations, and other engaged public agencies, to create a sustainable, measurable program to eliminate the necessity of homelessness in the Dana Point regional area.
Source: http://www.danapoint.org/residents/services-a-p/connections-for-homeless-resources

 

What is the status of the Dana Point Homeless Task Force initiative?

The task force has produced a plan, called the “Community Work Plan to Address Homelessness” which was made available for open public input (that 30-day comment period is now closed). The plan will be presented to the Dana Point city council on Tuesday, May 15, 2018.

The task force boasts 26 stakeholders and partners in four categories: government agencies, non-profits, faith-based communities and businesses.

The Dana Point city government contracts with qualified stakeholders (groups and nonprofits) to fund staff members who work as care coordinators. To begin the process of helping homeless people, these care coordinators have established an intake process which includes verifying IDs (social security card, license, etc.) and a consent form to share information with other cities. The care coordinators also take pictures of ID cards and upload those into an internal database along with other data.

The primary actions completed by the task force include:

  • Contracted with a nonprofit to supply overnight support services & coordinate information with recovery facilities
  • Contracted with a nonprofit to fund a full-time outreach worker
  • Established a Saturday Services Program
  • Visited similar programs in Costa Mesa, California and San Antonio, Texas
  • Created informational flyers
  • Conducted special training programs with Police Services
  • Advocated for changes in state laws

The city staff member leading the task force efforts is Economic Development Manager Kelly Reenders. One member of the task force noted:

“The Economic Development Manager’s work on homelessness has become nearly a full-time job, which means she isn’t putting as much of her time into doing economic development as she could, which she was hired for. Maybe it’s time to fund a separate city department for the homeless issue.”

Task force member Rick Erkeneff has suggested creating methods to demystify or personalize homelessness in Dana Point, noting that such programs “can go a long way to reduce fear” and foster connections.

Results

The Dana Point Homeless Task Force has made many important strides forward over the past year, for example, coordinating with over 20 different initiatives, establishing useful procedures, provisioning staff positions to account for and build relationships with homeless people in Dana Point, and establishing ways to measure impact.

Of a total known population that fluctuates between 30 and 50 homeless people in Dana Point, currently 4 people have been fully qualified for affordable housing, but no housing options exists for these people. This means that after efforts to place people in stable permanent housing by everyone involved with the task force, (city manager, law enforcement, public works, nonprofits, faith-based groups, residents and businesses), not a single person has successfully completed that path.

However, according to reporting from the task force, other positive outcomes have been tracked. Task Force Newsletter: https://www.danapoint.org/Home/ShowDocument?id=24933 includes the following results data from February 2018:

Dana Point Homelessness Results Chart 2018 Feb.

Having no available affordable housing for fully qualified homeless people is a problem that exists all over the country, as evidenced by this clip from Traverse City, Michigan:

We could look at her getting on a housing list two years ago as a success because we didn’t even have a housing list two years ago, but the reality is while this woman waits for housing she desperately needs, her chances of going into housing get worse.

Source: Mark Horvath of InvisiblePeople.tv

Dana Point residents can reach the homelessness outreach worker by calling (949) 441-6269 or via email at outreach@danapoint.org

This is the first in a series of articles about Dana Point homelessness on DanaPointer.com. More to come. Use the subscription form below and we’ll send you an email when each article is published.

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About the Author

Ross Teasley

A long-time Dana Pointer, technologist and publisher, I have been involved in several initiatives around Dana Point over the years ranging from environmental issues to civic planning. (My 8th grade civics teacher would be so proud.) Fueled by coffee.

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