We can all agree that the street is no place for the mentally ill to live.
For some reason however, our public policy doesn’t reflect this moral value. Instead, well-intentioned public policies have had the disastrous consequence of forcing the mentally ill, including addicts, to live in ditches and ravines. Something is very wrong, and we all know it.
I was the first member of the City Council to walk along with our Social Workers, Substance Abuse Counselors and Sheriff’s Deputies as they outreached to the Homeless in Vista. As a lay-leader, I struggled to understand how those who were in dire need of services were refusing the offers of help that were being provided.
I was the one who asked the Council to make solving homelessness Goal Number 1 for the City of Vista: https://www.cityofvista.com/city-hall/city-council-goals
I led the effort to create Vista’s award winning Homelessness Strategic Plan:
1. We provide Shelter, (ten beds are available now),
2. We created a Homelessness Outreach Team with more than 12 social workers, mental health clinicians, housing navigators, benefits enrollment counselors and more to actively outreach on a permanent daily basis to offer shelter & services.
3. We actively assist with permanent housing placement,
4. We’ve cleaned-up hundreds of encampments,
5. We’re advocating for better options for mental health and homelessness at the State and Federal levels,
6. We’re providing home share coordination services to assist residents in finding roommates to lower cost of living,
7. We created a staff task-force across all departments to coordinate the City’s response to the homelessness crisis,
8. We’re identifying funding sources to pay for services in Vista,
9. We created real data identifying homeless residents and classifying the causes of homelessness and challenges to re-housing,
and much more, please read the complete plan here: https://www.cityofvista.com/home/showpublisheddocument/22665/637238432318370000
I can tell you, that all 289 (at last count) persons living on Vista’s streets, have been offered Shelter, housing services, drug addiction rehabilitation, metal health services, physical health services, nutrition services, free public transportation, and host of services designed to help them climb out of the dire situation they are in.
Why then have only 54 accepted at least one night in the shelter? Vista’s social workers are asking that question specifically when they engage with Vista’s homeless.
I’m running for Mayor, in large part, because I am tired of seeing the way our State, region and City are failing to serve the basic human needs of those who suffer mental illness living on our streets.
What difference can Vista’s Mayor make? Although no Mayor and no city alone can solve the problem, the stance our City takes is critically important to the long-term solution, as well as to our City in the short-term.
Some political leaders here in Vista, including my opponents, refer to basic efforts to enforce the law as, “criminalizing homelessness.” They advocate for allowing the homeless persons to habitate wherever they like, despite the fact that the City offers safe, clean shelter, including transportation to the shelter.
I on the other hand believe that because we have paid for shelter and housing options, it is morally just (from the perspective of the well-being of the person suffering homelessness) to insist that they utilize it. The community also has a right to determine where certain housing and commercial activities take place for the well-being of the community, and also has a rightful interest in where persons without housing habitate.
By educating the public, and advocating for a change in public opinion, and a change in public policy, I strongly believe that we can make a difference.
What opinions need to change?
I hear every day, “We just need to offer them shelter, give them housing, and provide services…”
Myth: Shelter isn’t available.
Truth: It is. I’ve toured it, I receive regular updates on availability, and outreach. It’s available, and Vista is actively offering it to the homeless each and every day. Some homeless residents of Vista have been visited more than 20 times by our Social Work team.
Myth: A narcotic addict, a schizophrenic, or other severely mentally person is making a choice of free will to live unsheltered.
Truth: Those suffering from severe mental illness and addiction are not able to make rational choices about their own health and welfare. We know it’s true, but many still perpetuate the myth that living on the streets is a free-will decision.
A meth or heroin addict does nothing by free-will. Their brain has been physiologically re-wired to reward the next dose, and only the next dose. This is why heroin anorexia often emaciates heroin users. The brain no longer supplies dopamine as a reward for eating. Dopamine is only supplied for the next dose of heroin. That is not free-will.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has called openly for expanded access to conservatorships for the mentally ill. I salute him for leading, but too few are following. Still, many in power in Sacramento aren’t working fast enough to change public policy, and the result is the victimization of the homeless.
Myth: Some leaders want to “lock-up” the homeless, and ignore their Constitutional rights.
Truth: I will fight until my last breath to defend ALL American’s Constitutional rights to due process and liberty. The system currently affords an attorney and a patient’s right advocate to conservatees and requires a due process hearing before a judge. A medical doctor, a Psychiatrist’s analysis is required too. We must protect the rights of every victim of mental illness and addiction, including their right to live in a clean environment, with the appropriate medical and mental health treatment, proper nutrition and compassionate care.
Many in Sacramento, and some locally want Gavin Newsom to stop talking about Conservatorship, because he’s off message with most in his party. He’s right on this issue however, and one of the most important things I want to do as Mayor, is advance this conversation so that we can truly help the victims of homelessness, and yes, so that all Vistan’s can enjoy a City where every citizen is treated with humanity and treated with dignity, not discarded onto the trash heap of indifference.