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Dana Point Homeless Task Force Part 2

The Dana Point Homeless Task Force recently released their plan for reducing Dana Point homelessness.

This article is the second in a series on the topic of Dana Point homelessness. You can find Part I, an overview of the task force, by clicking here.

The task force, which is composed of city staff, nonprofits, faith-based groups, businesses and Dana Point residents, developed their work plan over the course of the past year. Listed here are the primary positions being promoted by the task force:

Responsible Compassion

This catch phrase has been adopted by the task force to embody the idea that residents should not give money or food to homeless people, but instead should refer them to service providers. This printed flyer, produced by the task force for public distribution in Dana Point, advocates to “answer requests [from homeless people] with a firm NO” and advises “DON’T encourage panhandling by giving money, food, etc.”

This position stands in opposition to the program run by the nonprofit Welcome Inn which provides daily meals for those in need in Dana Point. The task force is: “encouraging Welcome Inn to consider playing an active role in the newly organized Faith Leaders’ Saturday Engagement Program and future Volunteer Street Outreach Programs. The […] hope is that once Welcome Inn understands the effectiveness of these programs, it will withdraw its daily feed at the beach.”

Counterpoint:

“People advocating for only housing first need to see the world as it really is and start talking about community-wide solutions that include both Permanent Stable Housing (PSH) and shelters. We can’t be so consumed by solving the homeless crisis that we allow people to die on the streets in the process.”
Dana Point Homelessness Mark Horvath photo
Source: Mark Horvath of InvisiblePeople.tv

Permanent supportive housing is the best solution to end homelessness but in reality, many communities may never have…

Posted by Mark Horvath on Friday, May 11, 2018

The city of Malibu recently pressured one church to scale back their efforts to feed the hungry and to relocate to a more distant part of town.

[T]he homeless are a prophetic presence — a symbol of breakdowns on so many levels. Widespread poverty in a land of riches, unaffordable housing, substandard healthcare, limited psychiatric services and facilities.
Source: Steve Lopez of the LA Times

Housing First

Housing first is a model for ending homelessness that seeks to provide permanent housing without treatment preconditions or behavioral contingencies, and only then ofers the services and connections people need to remain in stable housing and out of homelessness.

Counterpoint:

“Permanent supportive housing is the best solution to end homelessness but in reality, many communities may never have enough housing or it will take years for housing to be created. Housing First ONLY is not a practical solution and many cities are now investing in shelters!”
Source: Mark Horvath of InvisiblePeople.tv

Network of Connections

The task force believes everyone living in homelessness (or at risk of becoming homeless) needs a network of friends and family — connections — in order to successfully transition to permanent, stable housing. The nonprofit Family Assistance Ministries (FAM) has programs to cultivate connections called “Friendly Visitors.”

Care Coordinators

The types of services available to homeless people are so diverse that in order to transition people to stable housing, highly trained individuals are needed to serve as case workers or care coordinators. This also supports the approach called a “continuum of services.”

The Dana Point Homeless Task Force has contracted with local agencies to provide staff who meet these requirements. Ironically, many of the people who fill those positions are themselves experiencing job insecurity and may be one paycheck away from homelessness themselves.

Reconnection Program

The objective of this program is to identify individuals being released from medical or addiction treatment programs so they are connected “to the homeward bound reconnection program and encouraged to return to the area of their support system.”

Counterpoint:

[From an online support group of homeless people] “I spoke with a few homeless people today about complicity between certain Homeless Outreach providers, Police, and the gravy train they know full well isn’t being used to help us.[…]

They make money to propagate the facade of ‘help’. In turn, the public at large think there is ‘help’ for us. The public see homeless people, and feel content to do nothing, because there is ‘outreach’. The public feels content to blame homeless people because so much money is spent on this ‘help’ — clearly we must be unable to utilize resources effectively (read: homelessness is caused by laziness, inferiority, and freeloading).”
— Lucy Bell, Facebook Homeless Support Group

In addition to those policy positions, the task force, like most specialties, uses very specific terminology to communicate. In fact, there are even differing opinions about how to refer to homeless people; everything from “the homeless” to “housing challenged” to “couch surfers.”

Homeless Task Force Terminology

Stakeholders — The task force groups “stakeholders and partners” into four categories: government agencies, non-profits, faith-based communities and businesses. Also mentioned are residents and volunteers.

Coalition — This term is used in various ways throughout the task force documentation. Sometimes “coalition” is used to describe some of the organizations that take part in the task force, like Welcome Inn, which is referred to as a “coalition of volunteers from South Orange County churches with the support of hospitals and other non-profits.” In other cases, the task force has used the term “The Coalition” to refer to all the churches and non-profits who are actively involved with the task force. This term has also been used to refer to the specific group involved with the “Saturday Services” program (see below).

Counterpoint:

“Of course we need more housing to end homelessness but we also need to reduce the process and increase action to actually do it. The amount of people and money it takes just to get one homeless person the help they need is maddening.”
Source: Mark Horvath of InvisiblePeople.tv

Of course we need more housing to end homelessness but we also need to reduce the process and increase action to…

Posted by Mark Horvath on Friday, May 11, 2018

Service Resistant — This term is used to describe individuals or families in need of support services but who resist taking part in those services for various reasons. Resisting formal aid programs is sometimes a symptom of known mental illnesses, or fear of being stigmatized, or despair, or post-traumatic stress syndromes, and a whole host of other reasons.

Counterpoint:

“Services are people resistant, not people are service resistant. Everyone will go into housing if the right housing is offered.”
Source: Mark Horvath of InvisiblePeople.tv

Unstably Housed — Homelessness often includes people who live in their vehicles or sleep on couches in someone’s home or apartment. That component of homelessness is difficult to measure and is often overlooked.

Saturday Services Program — In the words of the task force plan: “The Saturday Services program looks to share a meal, build relationships and provide a ‘one-stop’ approach for services. Services may include showers, prayer groups, outreach linkages, homeward bound connections and other basic needs. The intent is to move disparate activities servicing the homeless in Dana Point to a once per week, well-coordinated and more effective program.” The program has been running for several weeks at the San Felipe de Jesus church in Doheny Village.

People who arrive for the program first check in with greeters who have a list of known Dana Point homeless people. Visitors are offered a hot breakfast, a safe area to relax, access to a safe shower truck, hair cuts, and a take-away lunch. Case management consultants are available. As of late March, this program was serving an average of 20 hot meals per week, including the working poor, which helps prevent homelessness among the at-risk population.

 

Results

Currently 4 people have been fully qualified for affordable housing by the Dana Point Homeless Task Force, but no housing options exists for these people. This means that after all the 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, in contradiction to the official task force numbers, one person involved in supporting the homeless, recently commented on Facebook: “We have housed three veterans (one more in the works), two single male adults, two individuals are receiving mental health services (in patient), one individual going to recuperative care, one grandmother and granddaughter waiting for an apartment to open up (all documents ready), individuals checked into drug rehab and much more. Housing placement is slow but we stay with it and see results.”

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

This is the second in a series of articles about Dana Point homelessness on DanaPointer.com. 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. Fueled by coffee.

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