By Matthew DeForest, Sept. 28, 2021
In October of 2020, a study by the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools estimated that one in 10% of California State University students were homeless for all or part of 2020. That would be an estimation of about 48,000 CSU students facing homelessness.
In their 2020 homeless count, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found that at least 66,436 people in Los Angeles county faced homelessness in 2020.
So many in our community face living in unsafe and unhealthy conditions. So how can we fix this problem?
Most of the money being spent on combating homelessness is centered on providing temporary and permanent forms of housing. The biggest program is Project Roomkey, where motels and hotels and other vacant properties are acquired by the state and converted into housing for the homeless.
The state of California has spent $13 billion in the last three years to combat homelessness and plans to spend another $4.8 billion dollars over the next two years. Yet, even for with all that money being spent on the issue, the homeless population continues to rise.
While the project was largely a success, the number of people falling victim to homelessness each day continues to outpace those being rehoused. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, 227 people fall victim to homelessness each day compared to 207 people being lifted out of homelessness.
In our own community, I point to the Jovenes organization. They provide housing, counseling and case management solutions for homeless youth in the L.A. area. They also specifically provide aid to students here at Cal Poly Pomona.
Their organization works to break the cycle of homelessness and not just to put struggling people into houses and call it a day. They mainly do this by working with students and youth to secure jobs and a stable income.
Participants also receive access to healthcare including medicine and counseling services, tutoring services and a caseworker who helps their clients learn the skills they need to be successful outside of the program.
I believe that the Jovenes organization should be the model for how to combat and defeat homelessness throughout this country. Living on the streets or out of a car is not the main issue; it is simply a result of many underlying problems that people face every day.
Addiction and mental health are often the driving force behind what causes a person to succumb to homelessness. We must address these two issues if we have any hope of uplifting our fellow neighbors.
Addiction and basic mental health struggles can be overcome by the Jovenes model. Caring caseworkers and living with others facing the same struggles can provide a sense of optimism and community we crave as human beings.
This community that such programs can provide will give homeless individuals the stepping stone they need to get out of poverty.
People who suffer from serious mental conditions such as schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder and psychosis need a different support system. We need to fund and staff well-run mental health facilities.
These facilities can provide a safe place to stay and medical treatment for those mentally ill individuals who have nowhere else to go for support.
I firmly believe that while money and housing are integral parts of solving the homeless crisis, they are not the end of the process. We as a society must provide social, medical, emotional and monetary support to our homeless friends in the community if we ever hope to truly improve their lives.
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