Commentary: Ending homelessness requires a multipronged approach

I have been a Costa Mesa resident for eight years. My wife and I purchased a home here because we fell in love with Costa Mesa's character.

Maintaining and building this character are central to the message of my campaign for City Council, and it is also central to my view of the role of local government.

In my time working on the Costa Mesa Street Team on Homelessness, I have seen residents and business owners respond positively with a helpful community-first attitude.

The energy generated has allowed Costa Mesa to host one of Orange County's most innovative and successful approaches to homelessness in the city. While we still have a long way to go, at least 24 Costa Mesa residents emerged from homelessness in the past two years. I use this example to demonstrate the compassionate, problem-solving approach to issues that attracted my wife and me to Costa Mesa.

Much has been said about the problems surrounding certain local motels. What I don't hear from anyone are solutions that are workable and compassionate. The problems linked to the motels are manifestations of the real problem, which is how we deal with certain segments of our population, including

low-income and homeless residents, transients, parolees and addicts.

Sometimes these segments overlap. To say the policy solution to this problem is to close motels is like saying the solution to preventing mass murders is gun control. It does not address the deeper issues and only seeks to restrict liberty.

So what is the solution?

First and foremost, we need a comprehensive housing plan. The homeless, at-risk and low-income populations are not monolithic, so there must be a multitude of housing solutions in this model.

I propose permanent housing with support services for those most in need of help, transitional housing for families working toward once again supporting themselves, rapid rehousing as a homelessness-prevention measure and additional affordable-housing plans.

None of these would be government-driven models, but rather they would be led by private organizations, reducing the burden on the taxpayer while achieving our goal.

Second, we need to support the growth and expand the function of our homelessness street team in order to build relationships and connect with people who are resistant to treatment.

Third, we need to better address mental health in our city. This starts with more full-time social workers and better communication with nonprofit organizations that offer affordable services, as well as the county and state.

Finally, we need to build a coalition consisting of motel owners, the Police Department, code enforcement and local nonprofit and faith-based organizations to address the living conditions, crime, drug abuse and trafficking in our local motels and elsewhere.

This is this kind of comprehensive approach that city officials need to start working toward. Placing blame and arguing in political jargon won't solve the problem, but working together as a community certainly will.

TONY CAPITELLI, a district representative for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, is running for Costa Mesa City Council.

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