Where’s the intelligence and vision?

Chico’s kicking the can down the road when it comes to homelessness

Homeless people worldwide are entrenched in poverty and social exclusion. They face systematic discrimination and persecution that limits civil liberties protections under the law, excluding them from basic rights to access food, sanitary facilities, shelter, medical care and security from bodily harm. Every country in the world except Finland has faced exponential increases in homelessness.

In 2005, the U.N. estimated that 100 million people were homeless, with another billion lacking adequate housing. A third to half are children. Global trauma of unending war, corporate land grabs, natural disasters with limited government response, stagnant wages, violence toward women and children and the defunding of social services contribute to the growing class of disenfranchised.

In the U.S., estimates range from 1.6 million to 3.5 million people. Half of Americans will experience poverty in their lifetime. The risk goes up for women, children, senior citizens, those with a mental health diagnosis, veterans, people with substance-dependence problems or a felony, youths in foster care, and Native- and African-Americans.

California ranks with the deep South and Texas on its failure to have a statewide policy to address and prevent homelessness. Locally, ticketing bodies with backpacks and squalling about poop on your shoes is not a policy solution for homelessness. Chico fails to provide enough affordable housing. Section 8 is a bingo game with a three- to five-year wait. The Jesus Center and Torres Community Shelter don’t solve their clients’ substance-dependence problems.

If council members don’t want to unlock public bathrooms, they could at least provide human waste bags like the dogs get in Bidwell Park. Maybe they could provide storage lockers so people wouldn’t have to drag all their stuff with them to avoid losing limited personal belongings. Or just maybe they could stop being reactionaries and actually display some intelligence and vision to formulate a plan to address adequate, affordable housing options that reduce homelessness. Google Finland. That country formulated a national homeless policy in 1989 that concentrates on housing first and social services second. It has reduced homelessness by 50 percent. The best world record yet.