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Friday, January 26, 2007

Guest Commentary: Addressing the Issue of Homelessness in Davis

The critical resource that the homeless of Davis is housing. It is a commonly known fact that there is a long term and emergency shelter program operating in the city of Davis, operated by Davis Community Meals. This facility houses up to 16 homeless individuals at once, the focus of this program being long term transitional housing for clients who lack shelter but who would like to get back on their feet.

A major requirement for placement in this and other long-term housing programs in California like Davis Community Meals is the need for clients to be sober and if a client is suffering from a mental illness, the illness must be stable and treated with medication.

We have been lucky in Davis to have in place the Cold Weather Shelter in Davis, which is geared to serving homeless individuals who are also substance and alcohol consumers at the time of shelter.

Davis Community Meals also hosts a family program. The 2005-2006 Homeless Count coordinated by the Yolo County Homeless Coalition identified a homeless population of 148. It is a given fact that while there are other homeless resources present for the different populations of individuals who are homeless in our community, slightly more than half of this homeless population does not have a roof over their head.

The national consensus among homeless specific social service providers and some in our federal government is that, a housing first model where we house our chronically homeless and then provide needed social services is a good strategy and a start in ending chronic homelessness.

With this in mind, I bring up an important issue facing the homeless of Davis which is also an issue in other areas of Yolo County. This issue pertains to the lack of stable year-round housing options for the alcohol and illicit substance consuming and the income-less homeless (including the mentally ill) of Davis, California.

I propose at least a place to start with this crisis with the goal in mind that we are to find long term housing options for every homeless individual that seeks housing. Community members, staff from the city of Davis and members from the Chamber of Commerce should coordinate with other social service agencies and county government in order to host a outreach fair for the homeless. An outreach fair would encompass health service screening and social service assistance in one centralized location. In the city of Davis's future evaluation of affordable housing projects, there should be an effort to designate some of these units for the homeless who do not have a fixed income.

A condition could be established that homeless individuals being housed must look for work in at least six months from the date of being housed. Members of the homeless suffering from severe mental illness that we get off the street and house in such units could be matched up with social service advocates that could assist such members of the homeless population in applying for social security benefits.

A major impediment in a lack of housing for our homeless suffering from mental illness is that a good majority of these individuals do not know where to start in applying for social security benefits. Without income, our mentally ill can not be housed in a long term fashion.

An option to subsidizing the cost of rent for our homeless in the city of Davis could be via establishing a community fund to subsidize the rent of a homeless person for a period of six months. Another option is to work with local apartment complex managers in order to provide some of the vacant apartment complex units to members of the homeless without a fixed level of income. The homeless individuals without housing could actually be housed.

The solutions I have suggested, are a few of many that have worked in other communities across the country. We have the income in the community to house our homeless; we do not have to rely entirely on city and county government funds. We as a community must have a political will to house every homeless individual who wishes to be housed. This is the bottom line.

This article does not even be speak the other issues plaguing the homeless community that the community as a whole; not just city and county government agencies could do on the issues of a lack of health care upkeep, proper nutrition and the need for more drug detox (drug rehabilitation services and supporting discharge services).

I invite responses to my blog entry. It is my intention to bring about dialog around this critical issue in that we must house more members of our homeless population in the city of Davis. Please reader gain some inspiration from this article and do not just passively read my entry.

Richard Cipian is a college student and a homeless activist in the community.

He has a blog at: