Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer stood at the intersection of S. Flower Street and W. Colden Avenue Los Angeles’ Vermont Vista neighborhood on Tuesday morning, June 29, and stated his case for a new approach to addressing homelessness statewide.
Faulconer is one of several candidates hoping to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom in the August recall election. On Tuesday, he tried to position himself as someone who would take the action necessary to end the state’s homelessness crisis — as opposed to Newsom, whom Faulconer said was focused on “rhetoric, but not action and not results.”
Newsom’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Faulconer pointed to nearby homeless encampments and said they would not be a common sight under the “Streets to Shelter” plan he unveiled Tuesday.
“What you’re seeing right here, we did not allow in San Diego,” he said. “We’re going to have a bottom line of no tent encampments, and we’re going to get California back on track.”
But policy experts said Tuesday that Faulconer’s plan — which prioritizes building homeless shelters but does not address the need for longer-term housing — dehumanizes those who are homeless and would not solve the deeper issues that lead people to lose their homes.
Specifically, Faulconer’s strategy includes six proposals:
- Establish a “right to shelter” law that would require people to leave public spaces if they refuse available shelter;
- Create a network of state-led shelters to increase bed availability while stepping up enforcement efforts to eliminate homeless encampments;
- Establish a law guaranteeing the public’s right to access public spaces and require governments to maintain public access to those spaces;
- Require state agencies to adequately maintain public spaces;
- Create a statewide program to house homeless veterans; and
- Conduct an audit of state funds for mental health, substance abuse programs and homeless services so the state can target the most effective programs.
Faulconer was surrounded by allies on Tuesday as he pitched his plan, including Los Angeles resident Oswaldo Mora, who has previously experienced homelessness.
“We need to get all the people out of the streets and into safety,” Mora said. “I once found myself homeless, so I know the importance of this. Sleeping in my car and eventually in the streets, I was in a mental breakdown.”
Mora said he was grateful for the short-term housing and services, including rehabilitation and access to work, that he received back then.
“Others need that opportunity today,” he said, “and that’s why I believe that the approach of Mayor Faulconer’s is going to make a difference.”
But not everyone agrees that Faulconer’s approach is the best or most effective to help people in need of housing.
Eve Garrow, a homelessness policy analyst and advocate at ACLU of Southern California, said Tuesday that Faulconer’s idea of a “shelter-first” strategy, rather than a “housing-first” strategy, ignores the underlying causes of homelessness and would likely do more harm than good.
“The former mayor appears to be suggesting that our two choices are to build shelters and force people into them by threat of citation or jail time, or allow unhoused people to die on the street,” she said. “But of course, it’s a false dichotomy because the solution is really investment in subsidized affordable housing, and that is a glaring omission in his plan.
“If we go down this path of a shelter-first model, we’re really confining people to living in mass shelters for years, if not decades, and that’s already happening now,” Garrow added. “So I see it as a very dangerous proposal because it will hamstring California’s ability to address and solve the housing affordability and housing displacement crisis.”
That doesn’t mean, though, that California is currently on the right track to solve homelessness. Garrow said she didn’t want to let the current administration off the hook.
She said that while Newsom has been focused on a “housing-first” approach, which she said is the right framework, the state has not made the issue a big enough priority.
“Where I think California has fallen short is a true commitment to the scale of the response that we will need to engage in,” Garrow said, “in order to solve this crisis.”
That commitment, she said, will require long-term funding — and that type of funding will require political will.
Faulconer, meanwhile, acknowledged that his own strategy would need money, but he did not delve deeply into how much his plan would cost or how it would be funded.
He did say, though, that he would have the political will to make a difference.
“You can spend all the money in the world on this problem,” Faulconer said, “but if you don’t have the political will to go out and say, ‘We’re not going to allow tent encampments on our sidewalks,’ you’re not going to change behavior. You’re note going to make a difference in our cities.”
Source: Orange County Register