News, Policies, & Trends Opinion

Local Jurisdictions Are Forced to Address Homelessness on Their Own

By | Dec 14, 2016

There is a new Sheriff in town. The town being the United States of America.

Everyone is talking about the significant national policy changes that will occur going from a left-leaning Administration to one leaning right. The policies on homelessness will be affected just as much as any other major national issue.

With the choice of a new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – a man who has stated that in regards to housing policy, government cannot get it right – many in the housing and homelessness sector fear federal resources to address homelessness will be drastically cut.

Local jurisdictions – cities and counties – are preparing for the worst. With homelessness increasing in many urban settings, especially in California, local governments were already creating new revenue sources for housing and homeless services.

The City of Los Angeles passed Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond to build permanent housing for an estimated 10,000 people who are homeless. The County of Santa Clara passed a similar bond, Proposition A, totaling $950 million.

The County of Los Angeles recently decided to put a sales tax increase proposal, to raise $355 million per year for homeless services, on the March 2017 ballot

And Mayors around the country were challenged to join an effort to end Veteran homelessness in their cities. Working at the local level resulted in a 50% decrease in Veteran homelessness since 2010.

All of these local efforts make sense because, although homelessness is a national  crisis, most Americans are more worried about the 10-12 people living in the park down the street, or the tent encampment lining the sidewalk along a nearby vacant lot or close to their child’s elementary school.

Homelessness is a local issue. Just ask the local city councilmember, or county representative about homelessness, and they will quickly share the number of calls they constantly receive from constituents.

A couple of years ago, I, along with an elected official and the city’s housing leader, co-authored an opinion piece in San Diego’s local paper about how local initiatives can address homelessness on a local level. It was a clear treatise on how homelessness needs to be addressed on a local level.

It is difficult to predict the future, however, for local leaders who are desperately in search of solutions to address homelessness on their streets, depending on resources from a federal government that is leaning toward less government participation could be a recipe for a larger human crisis.

That is why local leaders must act now.

Whether the federal government is leaning left, or leaning right, local officials must “lean in”, as Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg writes. Local leaders must lean toward the center of the discussion on homelessness and take the lead to make sure that solutions to ending homelessness are not only heard but are enacted.

The time is now.