Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Homeless & Homes

In this otherwise very nice story about the retirement of homeless community leaders, finding homes for the homeless, while difficult, is still being done. The approach we called for in our 2005 report on the Lower Reach of the Parkway where illegal camping by the homeless has driven the adjacent communities from their part of the Parkway is one practiced successfully in New York, and involves securing existing housing for the homeless scattered through the city rather than the approach taken by Sacramento to build centralized housing for the homeless.

“We feel this centralized approach is harmful, to the homeless as well as the neighborhood having to deal with it and this is what we wrote in our 2005 report The paradigm of constructing large concentrations of social service programs in one area, as has been done along the Parkway, is as corrosive at helping the poor and suffering transform themselves, as it is to the surrounding community.

"It is equivalent to constructing a wall around those living marginal lives, separating them from the community within which they need to transform their lives.

"What works is de-centralization, not more centralization. What works is teaching people how to fish, not just giving them fish.” (p. 28)

Shelter leaders say goodbye
By Jocelyn Wiener - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PST Saturday, December 16, 2006

From her vantage point as head of Sacramento Area Emergency Housing Center, Bonnie Hyer has seen increasing numbers of homeless working families and homeless families headed by single fathers.

From her post at St. John's Shelter, Mary Ellen Ferguson has noticed a growing number of homeless single women struggling with mental illness.

Working closely together, the two women led Sacramento's largest family shelters through five years of spiraling housing prices. In recent weeks, both announced their respective departures. Ferguson, 59, left last week. Hyer, 64, leaves in March. Both are looking forward to relaxing before seeking out their next challenge. They say the timing is merely coincidental.

"We kind of laugh about it ourselves," Hyer said.

While both are concerned by certain trends they see emerging among their clientele, they are nonetheless leaving their posts feeling optimistic. They feel particularly encouraged by the community's recent efforts to address homelessness. They point, specifically, to a 2004 county ordinance that requires 15 percent of all new housing to be affordable to low-income people. They also point to the city and county's recent promulgation of a 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness.

"What I see is that policymakers and the service providers have talked about doing this and have made plans to do it and now it's time to basically put some teeth into it," Ferguson said.

She believes one of the most difficult conundrums officials will face is finding neighborhoods where they can build housing for the homeless, as is called for in the plan.