Opinion

If you have a better idea on helping the homeless problem, tell me. Let’s hear some solutions.

Watch the sparks fly over homeless shelter vote at Sacramento City Council meeting

Large 100-bed homeless shelters will soon open in Meadowview and in North Oak Park, the Sacramento City Council decided August 27, 2019, for a price tag of more than $20 million.
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Large 100-bed homeless shelters will soon open in Meadowview and in North Oak Park, the Sacramento City Council decided August 27, 2019, for a price tag of more than $20 million.

If all you are doing about homelessness is complaining about it, then you are part of the problem.

And I write this as someone who used to be part of the problem. Raging about homelessness accomplishes nothing.

It really doesn’t. Law enforcement can’t clean up this problem for us. We can’t deploy a fleet of buses to ship homeless folks out of town. We can’t scream about “finding a solution” while opposing every one offered. We can’t continue to decry a lack of action on homelessness when there is action.

Tuesday’s approval by the Sacramento City Council of two homeless shelters – one in Meadowview and one in North Oak Park – mark a turning point in the efforts to get people off the streets, under roofs and connected with services.

As Theresa Clift wrote in The Bee: “The Meadowview shelter is set to open this winter, while the shelter at X Street and Alhambra Boulevard is set to open next spring, both offering rehousing and other services. The Meadowview shelter, next to the Pannell Meadowview Community Center on Meadowview Road, will be the first large city shelter that will exclusively serve homeless women and children.

Opinion

Here is an admission: Homeless shelters can be horrible. Dirty. Dangerous. Chaotic.

And they’re not cheap: The cost to the city is more than $20 million to run them over two years. But here is a question: Do you have a better idea? Just cleaning up after homeless people – not to mention police and fire calls for service every day on homeless issues – costs the city millions of dollars as well.

You can’t arrest your way out of this, or ship them away, etc. This is it. This is us. This is our community and we are past the time of fighting a reality that has been a reality for years. We don’t want to be San Francisco, where the problem of homelessness is even more acute and insidious.

In San Francisco, you have a city of rich people using their resources to block a proposed homeless shelter in the courts. That city wants to put a 200-bed shelter in a parking lot on the Embarcadero, but rich folks have raised more than $100,000 in walking around money to block the shelter by citing the California Environmental Quality Act.

If that’s not a symbol of a city that cares more about money than people, then who knows what is? Opposition solves nothing, it accomplishes nothing. The crisis is still there, in our faces, getting worse with each day we argue and rage over what is.

The humble people of Meadowview might sue if they could raise more than $100,000. And in the context of fairness, when one considers that Sacramento’s well-heeled neighborhoods are not proposed sites for homeless shelters, opponents in Meadowview had a point. Certain communities bearing the brunt of homeless shelters is not fair.

But opposing for the sake of opposing ignores the homeless crisis before us.

What needs to happen is Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and a council majority who approved the shelters on Tuesday need to make distribution of shelters more fair. Or the well-heeled of Sacramento need to open their wallets to make up for not having shelters at their front doors. Or some other effort needs to be undertaken to spread the feeling of community ownership of our homeless across Sacramento.

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, who opposed the two new shelters, is right: Housing women and children is not a good idea because of inherent danger and chaos. But leaving women and children on the streets in numbers that exceed the ability of small non-profits to help them is not acceptable either.

What’s the takeaway then from Tuesday night and the shelters that were approved?

How about: If you have a better idea than a shelter, a real idea that serves more than a handful people amid a crisis, then let’s hear it. Tell me. I’ll happily write about it instead of raging about it.

But if all you can think to do is, say no, oppose? Or rage? Or cite a laundry list of societal ills caused by homelessness as if doing so did anything beyond simple complaining? Then we have no time for you in Sacramento.

We have a homeless crisis with big pockets of Sacramento County and neighboring communities acting as if doing nothing is an option. It’s not. Doing nothing is what got us in this mess.

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Marcos Breton writes commentary and opinion columns about the Sacramento region, California and the United States. He’s been a California newspaperman for more than 30 years. He’s a graduate of San Jose State University, a voter for the Baseball Hall of Fame and the proud son of Mexican immigrants.
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