OCEANSIDE —On Oct. 21, Councilman Chris Rodriguez told a room full of residents during a town hall at the El Corazon Senior Center that there are three main solutions to the homelessness crisis.
Two of those solutions include repealing Proposition 47 and passing a new law to change certain “non-violent crimes” to “violent.”
Proposition 47 was passed by California voters in 2014. The law enacted three changes to felony sentencing laws: it reduced certain theft and drug possession felonies to misdemeanors, it gave defendants currently serving sentences for felony offenses that would have misdemeanors a chance to petition for a resentence, and it gave defendants who completed their sentences for felony convictions that would have been misdemeanors a chance to reclassify those convictions.
According to Rodriguez, this created more problems by preventing police from arresting homeless people who are using drugs.
“Homeless addicts are now free to openly use meth and heroin anywhere with little fear of reprisal,” Rodriguez said.
The councilman also told residents about Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2020, an initiative that would, according to keepcalsafe.org, reclassify “non-violent” crimes like rape of an unconscious person, sex trafficking of a child and 14 other serious crimes as “violent” to prevent the early release of those convicted of these crimes.
Additionally, if passed, the law would reform the parole system to stop the early release of violent felons, expand parolee oversight and strengthen penalties for parole violations. It would also reform theft laws and expand DNA collection to include those convicted of drug, theft, domestic violence and other crimes.
The third solution, according to Rodriguez, is for an “intervention mechanism” to be created at the local level for homeless people with addiction that offers them “a pathway to self-dependence and off of government dependence.”
That pathway, the he said, must include housing, detox, life skills and job training and work requirements all within a drug-free environment. Regional jurisdictions also need to be in tune with each other on such a mechanism, and the region must have mental health resources.
One local program that seems to fit Rodriguez’s criteria for such a mechanism is Solutions for Change, a group that claims to permanently solve family homelessness.
The way the program solves family homelessness, according to founder Chris Megison who spoke at the Oct. 21 town hall, is by ending what his program calls “the churn.”
The churn is the “costly and futile cycle that occurs when the root causes of family homelessness are not addressed, causing homelessness to repeat.”
For example, Megison explained, a family may encounter job loss, domestic violence, illness or eviction that ends them up in shelters or other temporary living situations. Once their vouchers for assistance runs out, the cycle repeats itself.
For Megison, shelters, motel vouchers and government subsidized housing are “Band-Aid fixes” but not permanent solutions because they don’t address the “root problem.”
For Rodriguez, the government has failed at solving the homelessness crisis. He wants to see less government dependence and more local initiatives take off.
Bea Palmer, who attended the town hall, reminded Rodriguez that there are many other organizations in the area that are making strides in addressing the region’s homelessness.
Palmer is vice president of the board for Operation HOPE-North County, a 45-bed year-round shelter for homeless families and single women. The shelter offers a drug-free environment, case management for shelter residents, job skills training and children’s programs as well.
“One size model doesn’t fit everybody’s needs so we have to meet the families and clients where they’re at,” she said.
Palmer told The Coast News that she wants Rodriguez to advocate for all of the organizations like hers equally.
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son