By Anita Coleman; original article available here.
Recently, the Orange County Board of Supervisors, California, voted to use land that it owns in the City of Irvine near the Great Park, to erect temporary housing shelters for people vacated from the Santa Ana Riverbed. This week the Irvine City Council held an emergency meeting and listened to public comments before deciding upon litigation to stop the County from following its plan. I posted the facts below because of the mis-statements and myths that were being casually thrown out by vociferous city residents on NextDoor. There was “outrage” and protesting. They didn’t want the “homeless addicts housed near our homes,” people who “choose to be homeless,” “have refused services and continue to live a life of crime and drugs!” I’ve edited the original and share it here. I hope it inspires us to become informed, kind neighbors.
Homelessness is a complex and complicated problem. There is no easy, quick solution. Government alone cannot solve it. Rather, what’s worked is collaborative and innovative partnerships, committed leadership across the public and private sectors. The process is long-term, non-partisan, and has to be supported, indeed actively encouraged by the citizens. Some facts:
1) Economic uncertainty (finding/keeping a job with sustainable wage) is one of the major factors (40%) precipitating homelessness for a majority of the homeless in the OC. Other factors include Lack of affordable housing, foreclosure, eviction (36%), Family issues:divorce, death of family member, domestic violence (28%), Alcohol and/or drugs (22%), Mental health (17%), Physical health (13%), and Release from jail/prison (7%). Who is experiencing homelessness? A majority are American citizens, with 68% living in OC 10 years or more, and only 10% are foreign born. 12% veterans. Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in 2015 was $1,800. 47% have schooling beyond high school. See http://www.prweb.com/releases/2017/11/prweb14936980.htm Don’t miss the infographic shown in the side too as it points out the costs for all of us in the OC — upwards of $300 million! — The Cost of Homelessness https://www.jamboreehousing.com/uploads/pdfs/jamboree-infographic-cost-of-oc-homelessness-study-2017.pdf
2) Homelessness in the OC is also because of the housing shortages, a regional and statewide issue. Irvine is a leader in inclusionary affordable housing. We have 24 affordable housing complexes tucked away near/inside every one of our regular communities. See for example one of our newest https://www.jamboreehousing.com/what-we-do/affordable-housing-development/inclusionary ; Read City of Irvine Housing Element (2013 — 2021) as well as the Strategy & Implementation Plan <https://legacy.cityofirvine.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=8842>
3) Integration, not segregation, is the long term solution for homelessness. There are implementations of such: Cenury Villages at Cabrillo in Long Beach, and the Skid Row Housing Trust. The Skid Row Housing Trust is a particularly persuasive model for the Irvine land near Great Park as it can be planned to fit OC Great Park and OC Neighborhoods aesthetics. Furthermore, Irvine has no — yes, that’s right — no shelters, neither emergency nor transitional — and yet, up to 10 % UCI college students experience homelessness. Recently, United Way and UCI began rallying people to work together to solve OC homelessness — you can participate by signing at https://www.unitedtoendhomelessness.org
4) Homelessness is not the only people problem our county faces. The OC population is aging too. Along with aging, sadly, elder abuse and neglect is on the rise in the OC. See http://www.ochealthiertogether.org/content/sites/ochca/OC_Older_Adult_Report_2016.pdf
5) The increasing homelessness is also fueled by the housing crisis. There’s not enough housing units to meet current needs. Yet, new people keep pouring into the state and county. We just don’t have enough housing for all. Over 50% of Irvine affordable households are renters. Of these, ~40% are overburdened renters (that is, they pay more than 30% of income for rent). See here (affordable housing Irvine) and here (generic, all Irvine). Many more are commuters. Working in Irvine, living elsewhere these hard working people (e.g. our police) add to our quality of life but suffer in their own lives from long and congested commutes.
The solutions for these problems are linked. We have this crisis in part because the city and county keep kicking the problems of homelessness back and forth. Although, we, in Irvine, have over 10 not for profits that work in the areas of homelessness and affordable housing, they can’t solve the problem on their own. We, the community must come together and hold ourselves accountable too. Collaborative, courageous and visionary leaders helped to attract and build a thriving middle class in Irvine. City of Irvine paid its contractors a living wage long before many others did (this was, however, recently repealed). The OC Great Park and Irvine Community Land Trust, our tradition of excellent planning, many diverse faith communities, work and service ethic of volunteering, makes Irvine uniquely positioned to exercise leadership countywide in this area and help the OC shine.