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Indybay Feature
The Relative Merits of a Task Force on Homelessness
by Steve Pleich (spleich [at]
Friday Apr 8th, 2016 12:57 PM
Scope, Composition and Duration Are Keys To Success
At its April 26 session, the Santa Cruz City Council will consider a proposal to form a Task Force on Homelessness. This task force model has been used in the recent past to address pressing community issues such as public safety and water supply and this problem solving model will now be applied to our most challenging current issue, that of services and support for people experiencing homelessness.

Prompted by community concern for this issue, the proposal by Council Members Comstock, Chase and Terrazas comes on the heels of the March 8 council rejection of the Lane Amendment which would have legalized "sleep", at least to some extent, within city limits. The scope, composition, appointment process and duration of the task force is yet to be determined but a discussion about the relative merits and substantive effect of a task force approach is both appropriate and arguably helpful at this time.

As mentioned, recent task forces have addressed public safety and water supply with differing degrees of success. The recommendations of the public safety task force were widely viewed as either unwieldy or impractical and were virtually ignored by city staff. Although several of the recommendations may have worked some substantive good or needed change, the fact that very few, if any, were actually implemented rendered the overall effectiveness of that task force virtually nil. The water supply task force, on the other hand, has received wide support from both staff and the Water Department itself and may well lead to a workable and sustainable plan to insure our future water supply. So how effective will a task force on homelessness be? Several things need to happen to create the opportunity for even modest success.

Firstly, the scope of the work must be broad enough to include both “housing first" and "shelter now" strategies. Virtually all of the time, money and effort being applied to the issue of homelessness manifests itself in housing first models. While noble in an altruistic sense, these models remain presently impractical in view of our lack of available rentals and dearth of affordable housing. On any given night there are as many as 1,000 women, men and children unsheltered in Santa Cruz; as many as 2,500 in the county. These figures are about 25 percent above that reported in the 2015 Homeless Census and Survey which is believed by most observers to be underreported by about that percentage biannually. These numbers are not intended to inflate the problem but are simply offered to present a clear picture of its scope.

Secondly, the composition on of the task force must reflect those segments of our community most profoundly impacted by this issue and include stakeholders whose participation can insure post task force success. These would include the faith community, neighborhood groups, local business leaders and retailers, representatives from nonprofits which primarily serve people experiencing homelessness, advocates for the homeless and, of course, members of our local homeless community. This is only a preliminary and suggested list and is not to be taken as complete or inclusive. There are surely other concerned groups and stakeholders whose input and participation will be key to the success of the task force.

Lastly, it is crucial that the task force have an early "sunset" date. Although we don't want to rush to judgment on such an important issue, the plight of people experiencing homelessness is nothing if not emergent. We must strategize thoughtfully, but we must also act with all deliberate speed if we are to see substantive options generated and implemented in a time frame that reflects the importance and urgency of the situation.

There should and must be much more discussion about the tasking force model itself and its history in Santa Cruz and comparisons to a similar effort more than a decade ago should be drawn and considered. But the efficacy of the current proposal will, as with all things, be most accurately assessed in hindsight. Let's hope of foresight is as prescient.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

Razer would bring knowledge and experience, coupled with practical and workable suggestions. It's not a coincidence that the long planned sleep solution ended up looking a lot like Razer's proposals, once the cold forced Brent et al to act. Razer is also very unlikely to put up with bullshit. No bullshit bigotry. No bullshit pedantry. No bullshit cred building. No bullshit budgetry. No bullshit hierarchy. No bullshit authority. No bullshit legalistic tyranny.

Obviously, no bullshit is quite the opposite from local politics, politicians, control freaks, and wannabe movers & shakers. So it is quite possible that Razer wouldn't be interested participating and quite possible the selection committee would be too timid to select Razer, which would suit local power priorities just fine.
by Robert Norse
Saturday Apr 9th, 2016 10:21 AM
Homeless Issues Task Force Report:


Last Extensive Coverage of the Real Issue in City on a Hill Press:
by Sylvia Caras
Saturday Apr 9th, 2016 11:21 AM
I appreciate the extensive background and the clear description of the proposal.

I went to a lot of the meetings leading up to the county All In plan.

For your consideration below are two links, a to do list for soon, and a concept for providing enough housing that grew out of those meetings, my collection of the ideas of others and myself. Not much on prevention, inequity, poverty, ...

The results of the Safety task force were pretty much pre-determined and the Council, some members, still insist on interventions that the task force did not recommend. So, ...

For the City, homelessness is a symptom of what the council doesn't look at, inadequate income and excessive costs which lead some to use alcohol and other drugs to soften their pain and to turn to theft for food and health. ...
by Razer Ray
Saturday Apr 9th, 2016 8:51 PM
If elected I will refuse to serve. I wouldn't walk into an environment like that un-armed, and I'm SURE everone (except certifiable politician types) are wanded before entering.
by John Cohen-Colby
Sunday Apr 10th, 2016 3:10 PM
A homeless task force is to make it seem like the City Council cares about homeless people, while in fact we have five hateful cold hearted council members who would like to see homeless people disappear, even to the point of running them all out of town at gunpoint.
maybe comstock and terrazas think that adding chase to suggest this task farce would make it less of one? but now of course anyone who is honest and watching city council knows that the supposedly progressive chase has voted for every increased penalty against homeless and poor people she can. other than brent adams everyone in town knows that chase has aligned herself with tbsc when it comes to civil rights for poor and dispossessed. it seems like its hard to take the probation officer/cop mentality out of a so called social worker. or maybe there is a new breed of social worker who thinks that people on the margins are that way because they need intervention by the courts.

in any event even if there are a few token homeless people on this task farce they will either be drowned out by the sure-to-be TBSC majority that will be seated. a safe bet will be that there will be institutional homeless caseworkers (ala chase who work in the system at $50-$76k and more a year who will be the supposed eyes and ears for actual homeless people) and perhaps a reformed addict or two who has gotten clean and now is the head of the newly minted TBSC task farce on addicts and recovery.

yesss that's right, TBSC has a new anonymously run recovery solutions team. should be interesting! expect to see one of them on the new TBSC solutions to homelessness task farce.

the only real question regarding this proposal is: where is richelle noroyan? she usually can't wait to stick her nose in more laws against homeless people b/c ultimately she thinks the homeless should just move out of town if they can't get their shit together.

does this mean richelle maybe wants to lead the group?
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