One of the fundamental causes of homelessness is the widening housing affordability gap says Manteca City Council hopeful Gary Singh in his response to the question “Any thoughts on how the City of Manteca can improve the homeless situation in Manteca?”
The question was posed to all candidates for the city council job. Singh’s response appears below in its entirety.
Going through a recession has caused the gap to widen significantly over the past decade. Homelessness is not just our city’s issue but a nationwide issue. The City of Manteca cannot does not have the means to solve this problem on our own. We need to use our surrounding cities and county resources and also create a coalition of non-profits and churches that want to help these individuals so we can work together as a unit utilizing a holistic approach to solving this difficult problem.
Homeless individuals are not all the same. Some, unfortunately, were hit with hard times and others are taking advantage of the system — panhandling to get money and exploiting the system. We need to help the individuals that truly want to turn their lives around and guide them to community resources that will help them get there. Research on modern homelessness has taught us that investment in permanent housing is extraordinarily effective in reducing homelessness as well as being a cost-effective measure. Numerous research studies have consistently confirmed that long-term housing assistance not only successfully reduces homelessness, it is also less expensive than temporary shelter.
We can leverage additional financial resources by accessing federal housing assistance. These programs are one of the most successful housing-based solutions to reduce homelessness. The two largest programs are public housing and Section 8 vouchers. Housing vouchers allow low-income households to rent modest market-rate housing of their choice and provides a flexible subsidy that adjusts with the family’s income over time.
Another way to address homelessness involves moving the long-term street homeless population – the majority of whom are living with mental illness, substance abuse and other serious health problems – directly into subsidized housing or a faith-based shelter. This would link them to support services, either on-site or in the community. From there, the ultimate goal would be to help teach these individuals the life skills that can offer the opportunity to get a job that would allow them to become self-reliant.
Building a traditional shelter in Manteca is not the solution to our chronic homeless problem. When I recently visited the St Mary’s shelter in Stockton, it is clear that many do not want to use these facilities because of the rules prohibiting drug and alcohol use or the prohibition on pets. Before I even got to the shelter what I saw was a veritable “tent city”.
These are individuals that do not want to follow the rules and choose to live outside the shelter and only go inside to get meals. Being homeless is not a crime and shelter staff cannot force them into one of the available programs. They have to make the decision to improve their lives on their own.
For those with a criminal history that makes it difficult to find employment, the Sheriff has a great plan that would address their underlying issues. He proposes a special homeless court and a helpful “program center” as a way to channel homeless lawbreakers into programs that treat their problems and provide needed services and where they can be guided to housing and future independence.
The vision is to transform several empty Honor Farm barracks into transitional housing and a service center staffed by county agencies and community non-profits. Currently, several Honor Farm barracks stand empty at the jail compound and more will become vacant in coming years as a new facility is built. The proposal would allow a homeless person convicted of a misdemeanor to choose the “program center” instead of jail. This would allow individuals to be screened, identifying causes of the person’s homelessness. The court would then order appropriate programs such as alcohol, drug or mental health treatment. At the same time, staff could help with things like obtaining a driver’s license, settling unpaid fines and untangling other barriers to self-sufficiency. This plan would not only free up jail space, but tackle the barriers to overcoming homelessness.
In order to make any of this possible, we need to build a local and countywide consensus and the unified political will to address his growing problem. We also need an ongoing commitment by all the municipalities and the community-based organizations to provide funding and the appropriate services to address the many faces of homelessness. This is not just a Manteca problem and it needs to be tackled in a collaborative way.
For further questions or thoughts, I can be reached at SinghForCouncil@gmail.com, Website: SinghForManteca.Com, 209-612-6161.