Trying to Regain Control : Santa Monica report on homeless seeks sane middle ground
A long-awaited task force report on Santa Monica’s vexing homelessness problem outlines a plan that is both compassionate toward the area’s homeless and respectful of local citizens who have become concerned about safety and the community.
The city, the Santa Monica Task Force on Homelessness correctly notes, “has done more than most communities to help the people that society would like to forget.”
However, the report cites the lack of a “comprehensive, coordinated and proactive policy on homelessness” as contributing to the “present chaotic policy environment.” The center of that “policy environment” is the 1,000 to 1,500 people who use the parks, alleys, doorways and back yards each day to sleep, urinate, panhandle and sell and abuse drugs. Crimes committed by the homeless are up in recent years; so are fear and concern among local residents.
To restore public safety, the report recommends “zero tolerance” for violent crimes, drug use, aggressive panhandling and public drinking. It urges adoption of an ordinance prohibiting encampments in public places and encourages better enforcement of existing laws.
But the task force also recognizes that Santa Monica must find “constructive solutions to specific problem behaviors.” The report recommends a new emphasis on employment programs and more coordination between social and medical services.
Conspicuously absent is the price tag for this reasonable plan. The task force has asked the city for a cost estimate within 90 days.
The expectation of a lot more public funds seems, sadly, unrealistic. But the task force’s report, entitled “A Call to Action,” is a first step toward a program of pragmatic compassion that is likely to become the approach to homelessness in the ‘90s.