Comment: Housing, not forced treatment, the key to solving homelessness

By David M. Greenwald
Chief Editor

Sacramento, Calif. – The Governor’s proposal for CARE has so far won through the Legislature. Once again, Legislative Democrats stand ready to back forced treatment even though experts say such policies don’t work.

“From a 39-0 vote on the state Senate floor to the final stint in two key Assembly committees, our efforts to move CARE Court forward are receiving overwhelming bipartisan support from the California legislature,” said Wednesday. Governor Newsom. “California understands that we need a paradigm shift to help the thousands of people in crisis suffering from untreated psychosis and too often living on the streets.”

He added: “CARE Court’s passage will not only bring relief to those in urgent need of care in the community, but it will also bring hope to their friends and family members who feel helpless in their lives. the current status quo”.

But in a forum covered earlier this week and hosted by the ACLU and LA Progressive, experts agreed that the CARE concept would take resources out of proven programs and put them into unnecessary bureaucracy.

Susan Mizner, Executive Director and Founder of the ACLU’s Disability Rights Program, explained, “The money we’re spending through this incredibly wasteful tribunal system and then locking people up in those institutions would be spent much more efficiently on increasing the services, housing, and supports that we know have been effective.

She added: “We know what works. We know Housing First works. We know that patient and persistent awareness works. We know that harm reduction works, and we know that we currently don’t have enough money for any of these things in the system.

Later, she noted, “Intuitively, I think we can all relate that coercion when trying to work with a trusted medical professional is counterproductive.” She added: “Several studies have shown that forced treatment is no more effective than voluntary treatment. This patient and persistent approach is what works.

Mike Herald, director of policy advocacy at the Western Center on Law & Poverty at CalMatters, said, “What’s not on offer is what’s needed: help to find and the ability to stay. in affordable housing.

He added: “The problem is clear – people can’t afford rent in California – and so is the answer. Californians need more housing, and the state must help pay for it.

He argued: ‘Any proposal that does not include the continued funding and implementation of housing assistance simply will not work.’

Herald noted that in 2002 Governor Gray Davis appointed him to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, where they worked to develop a homelessness plan.

They met with people from across the state and came to two key conclusions.

First, “most people weren’t housed because they didn’t have enough income to pay rent.”

Second, “Almost all the homeless people were known to us. They had been in our foster care system, our county hospitals, our jails, our public psychiatric hospitals, our Supplemental Security Income program, our mental health system, or our jails — often in combination.

He said: “These conclusions are valid in California today, but the situation is worse due to the recession, the pandemic, stagnating wages and the rising cost of living – and the inability of the State to make continued investments to solve the problems identified in 2002.”

He called on Newsom to allocate permanent funds, not temporary funds, for things like housing assistance and the creation of permanent supportive housing.

Housing is key. As Sharon McDonald noted in a blog post, “Housing First is an approach to homelessness that prioritizes the rapid provision of permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, ending to their homelessness and serving as a platform from which they can pursue personal goals and improve their quality of life.”

While many counter that people experiencing homelessness also suffer from a range of other issues, including mental health and substance use disorders, and therefore need to address these issues first.

However, studies show the opposite. Housing allows people to first achieve stability in housing, which often serves as an “essential precursor to other improvements in their lives. People with a housing foundation are better placed to take advantage of support services: they have the stability to engage in job search. They have the platform they need to provide care and continuity for their young children.

The question then becomes, why is the Governor pushing for a coercive model when Housing First is a more efficient and less expensive model?

About Antoine L. Cassell

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