For people on the ground among the homeless in California, there’s no mystery why homeless numbers continue to increase despite the expenditure of billions of dollars. The problem is a complete lack of comprehension among federal, state, and local leaders about the true nature of homelessness.
Rather than a case of widespread drug abuse, epidemic malingering or a sudden rejection of traditional family values, homelessness is the predictable result of rising property values, overburdened systems of care — especially care for mental illness — severe housing shortages and a rapidly changing economy. It’s exacerbated by widespread availability of potent drugs, including prescription opioids and, most recently, fentanyl. While drug addiction is seldom the single causal factor in homelessness, it remains a significant part of the problem because of the lack of infrastructure and qualified personnel to treat it, which means longer exposure and more damage to users.
At the federal level, much of the money that could be used to reduce the multiple harms of homelessness is encumbered by so many conditions, exceptions, and stipulations it gets tied up in bureaucratic tangles that lead to wasteful expenditures that do little or nothing to reduce homeless numbers. State funding is similarly encumbered.
A classic illustration is the City of Modesto’s recent decision to buy and repurpose Travelers Motel for a total of $23.2 million. Once converted to studios, the project would serve a total of 54 people, including at-risk youth. $2.1 million of the cost would go to relocating current residents. Funding for the project would come from state, federal, and local sources.
Most close observers estimate a minimum number of homeless people within Modesto at 1500 people. For the purpose of simple math, estimate the cost of housing 15oo people if the measure were $23.2 million per 54 people.
$23.2 million divided by 54 is $429,629.63 per person per unit. $429,629 times 1500 comes to almost $650 million.
Now consider how far $2.1 million (the cost of relocating current Travelers residents) might go if used for permitted camping for homeless people.
When the City of Modesto permitted camping, the cost was estimated at $13 per day per person. Because permitted camping was expected to be temporary with a designated shutdown date, services, including porta-potties, dumpsters and security were kept to a bare minimum. Today, costs of permitted camping would be much higher.
Again, for the purposes of simple math, how many people would permitted camping get off the streets and out of public places for $2.1 million and for how long?
If permitted camping for 100 people were to cost $50 per day, the cost for one year would be $1,825,000, significantly less than the projected $2.1 million just to relocate 34 people from the current Travelers Motel location. Perhaps it’s needless to add that the cost of getting 100 people off the streets for 10 years would still be less than the total cost of providing rooms for 54 people as described in the plan to buy Travelers Motel.
For yet another comparison, consider the City of Chico’s Pallet Village, a low-barrier shelter featuring stand-alone units that offer privacy, security, and electrical power, among other amenities. Using $1.7 million from the American Rescue Fund, the City of Chico purchased 177 Pallet Shelters as part of a legal settlement based on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that people couldn’t’ be prohibited from sleeping in public places if no other shelter were available.
Again, 177 shelters cost less than the projected cost — $2.1 million — to move 34 people from the Travelers’ Motel to alternative housing.
By now, federal, state and local leaders should have learned at least three lessons about homelessness: (1) Current tactics for reducing homelessness are far too expensive (2) Current tactics for reducing homelessness take far too long (3) Current tactics for reducing homelessness don’t work and can’t work because there will never be enough money and time to apply them successfully. There will never be any return on the (huge) investment.
In the final analysis, current tactics for reducing homelessness amount to an extravagant cruelty; the profligate costs do nothing to alleviate the suffering of people on the streets nor do they reduce the harm to everyone’s quality of life from a humanitarian crisis that continues to grow worse.
Given federal, state and local leaders’ inability to learn from ongoing failures, only a loud and sustained public protest offers any hope for reducing the multiple harms of homelessness. We need to recognize homelessness as a humanitarian emergency and begin triage. The longer we wait, the worse it will get.
Susan Kenney says
All painfully true. We continue to blame the victims. And, somehow, we want to make those who are homeless exhibit extraordinary effort and patience before extending a helping hand. The other lurking crisis is the escalating cost of rental housing. Those of us who thought that we had prepared for our retirement years have found that our social security plus savings is not enough to rent a modest, safe apartment. Most of us barely hang on and it wouldn’t take much to put us over the edge.
Plain English ALL spelled out for them. Cuz, it doesn’t take n idiot 2 c something’s NOT working❗Quit wasting money n do something right❗❗❗
Homelessness is not just people on drugs there are family’s out here struggling to get into housing because of the impossible standards you must have to rent you can’t have a credit score below 600 hundred you must make 3×the rent no eviction and you must have rental history it’s impossible to get back on your feet the rental places and property managers make it very difficult for people that are trying to get back on there feet after the pandemic I myself have been sick during the pandemic couldn’t work due to my illness got put out my home with my two kids now I’m forced to find a job while living out of a motel look for a place on a low income budget looking for a place to stay but keep getting denied due to my credit and in come among other thing s also paying 40 to 50 dollars application fees only to be denied people don’t have that kind of money to just give to companies that are profiting off the poor and it makes it very very hard and impossible to get back on your feet
Janice Lewis says
I think while being housed they need to search for work and perment housing daily and maybe even a rehab meeting once maybe twice a month. I think they should be responsable for all trash left laying around where they are temporaiy staying while looking for work and perment housing they shouldnt have visitors at temp.housing.up in the morning should start @7:30-9:00am and shut down should be like from 8:00-10:30pm this is training them for a job for the futhur. Responseablity!!
Robert Hairell says
No. You are not looking from a 3rd person’s perspective. Most people are having a hard time because of the economic situation 😕. And you overtly look over that aspect. Anyone can be homeless in this backwards culture we try and call civil. The more we uplift and take of each other, the more prosperous we all become. And remember not all humans want a big fancy house or some small SRO. Most people would rather contribute in any capacity that they can, but are not given the opportunity. As a civilization we are narrow minded in thinking we all want the same thing. And we don’t have a society where we look for each individuals talents with free education. Capitalism is dead. It is obviously not working for the betterment of mankind and the planet. It’s time to wake up, and stop being in the ” me,me,me, and only the immediate people I know. And understand the we,we, we, in humanity. To understand today you need to understand our history, to gain knowledge, and from knowledge you will gain wisdom to see the future. Stop with the tunnel vision and see the whole picture.
Tiny house villages
David Ollar says
Pallet Housing for those who have any type of paying job.
Tent Camp Grounds for those with authorized fixed income…
Ware house shelter for those willing to clean up City Streets..
Relocate those unwilling to work for their keep…
Carolyn Vargas says
I agree completely programs only help very very few; those in tents keep getting tickets and all their belongings taken away from them pushed from one place to another no place to feel safe
Rhonda Parker says
Well. I personally know 5 people living on the streets one was my niece so. Since. I had an empty camp trailers I asked her to come stay in trailer at nights be off the streets no plumbing or electrical but she could go inside my sons house for that. Ut. The country has came out finding me monthly for her staying in the trailer. It is in the back yard tagged and paid for but now for months I have tried to get her a place. No agency helps unless you have children or go thru a rehab program. She has tried that 3 times and as soon as the pain starts she leaves what can a person to do to help. I remember 2 years ago state bought 2 hotels on sisk rd remodeled them and they are mainly vacant I’ve when and asked several times last I was told it was being used for covid
Leilani hagberg says
Somebody is getting money off of wasting it on this fashion. Owners of ridiculously overpriced purchase? Builders that can’t stand cheap pallet homing construction?? Why is this acceptable???
Raze the damn thing and bring in prefabbed multi-story units!
LOU VALERO says
The city, and no doubt the county commission has their dirty grubby hands in this ATTROCIOUS deal.
I knew they were not critical thinkers. They have now proven them selves INSANE. Who in their right mind does the people’s business like this? Those the people let get away with it!
WHAT exactly motivated them to make this purchase? I want to know the entire backstory. WHO stands to make a killing off of this sale and repurposing of a bedbug haven? They need to raze the entire building and start from scratch. It would cost a whole lot less money in the long run.
On 9th Street to boot. The city certainly is not overly concerned about it’s carbon footprint nor fumes. Why stick 54 of our homeless all the way out there? Excuse me, they are not even planning on housing an entire 54 homeless. Some are “at risk.” And then there are the 34 to be displaced. What a racket the city has going on.
A project to move out 34 and move back in 34 plus 20. Progress at a snails pace! The best laid plans of mice and men. Add to the sluggishness, WHEN they expect to open back up. No one would ever quess the city is in a hurry to house anyone! Will the 34 current residents end up evicted?
Are they buying each a house for the quoted sum total?
This is, on its face, yet another example, of the pure sloth (laziness, and reluctance to work) this city/county has churned out on behalf of our houseless population.
I am utterly perturbed… How does this senseless decision get turned around. Eric Caine is right. Triage has to start immediately. The city has entered us all into the twilight zone.
We must demand a full hearing and paper trail of how this, and other city purchases, can possibly be proven accountable to our houseless citizens.
Others are profiting off these so called deals, best described as money pits. This is proof of profit pathology. One dirty hand washing the other. WHO are the responsible ones putting these greedy sale packages together?
BETTER, CHEAPER, FASTER is the way to go!
Why remodel a motel ? for 430,000 dollars per person you can still find single family houses in modesto
Here is an excellent example of what we should be doing with the 2.5 acres where Travelers is: https://sanjosespotlight.com/san-jose-gets-millions-for-prefabricated-homeless-housing-unhoused-lifemoves/
DrDarwin Edwards says
Just to let you know Mexico is Coming here to work, how can they have all this stuff and they came here to work. The people you see here the most in society are the ones making the rules….please be advised you re being shout out of your own country . Look at the Banking industry, look at this stupid shit they are doing. Look at Tuocemas Bank. All my Bankers are Mexican. Time to wake up America. They re shutting you out of your country , and they don’t even belong here……Good Luck.
A key ingredient in alleviating homelessness chiefly resides in providing low-cost affordable housing to areas. That’s the traditional way of thinking on the issue. But there’s more to this complex issue than supplying housing. Besides possessing varying facets of a mixed, complicated issue that makes it nearly impossible to solve entirely, effortlessly and expediently, it’s seemingly a work in progress for government at different levels.
Babette Wagner says
$23.2 million dollars?
This is pure insanity and the deal smells like the folks put in charge are thickly lining somebody’s pockets at not just public expense, but on the backs of the least among us.
I’ve personally (on my own….no “committee nonsense”) designed, built and/or remodeled homes, bought and remodeled professional offices, rentals, condos in Hawaii, a couple more in Alameda as well as locally over the years (the last as recently as barely three years ago) and the costs were, for ALL of those projects put together well less than a tenth of that $23.2 million figure (with room to spare) and currently house well over 54 people who purchased them at an average price point that’s lower than the cost per unit quoted in Eric’s article.
Something’s wrong with this picture and it’s shameful that the Powers-that-be are failing not just the many homeless, but the needs of our community at large who’d like to know why such a huge percentage of these folks down on their luck after this insane amount of money is spent, will STILL remain homeless given the limited number of units this “updated” facility can house.
What comes to mind is the phrase: “A camel is a horse designed by a committee” ….. and this committee’s fiduciary responsibility to those they represent appears to be sorely lacking in simple common sense if not a bit short in the area of integrity as well.
It’s heartbreaking to say the least….
WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?
Donald tripp says
I’m so tired of hearing the term affordable housing being used, affordable to who? Someone with a great job that already owns a home/ There is nothing being done to help get people off the street and back on their feet, no matter what you hear or how much money is so called being spent on it, this is a pure and simple fact that needs to be addressed yesterday. Look around you everywhere, the same thing is happening, no matter what’s being said ,they’re moving homeless people from one place to another, no better than the last, no bathrooms, no areas for cleaning up, no assistance for mental health or drug related problems, or any other helpful thing these folks so desperately need. Everyone needs to get enrolled and help or as you can already see it will get worse, way worse. Wake up, talk to people, call your congressmen, city supervisors, do something to help the real problem.
I have friends that are homeless, I take them hygiene products, and food. All these programs don’t help for nothing. I’ve seen some homeless get of the streets by abode, but not allow them. Someone is lining their pockets with the money and friends and family are getting the luxury of faking homelessness to get free housing. Cause the money that was given, could house everyone that is homeless. It seems to be favoritism