So, an ongoing but informal discussion still goes on about Cambria’s housing/homeless situation. I have received several good emails, spoken with people out and about, and some of the participants in a recent community meeting on the subject have also passed more ideas around. It generally feels like people are wanting and willing to reconvene to see if some good may be done.
I’ve learned that the new protocol around at least one hot spot for panhandling is now to call the authorities as some of those free-range citizens there have obstructed traffic and harassed motorists.
“We don’t have an issue with our ‘usual’ homeless folks here. It really seems more like these guys who are just passing through, more transient. They don’t want your food, just money, and don’t hesitate to tell you so!” I was told.
“We want to help them, but I wonder if it’s doing any good.”
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“It doesn’t happen very often ,but sometimes they leave their trash right there on the street.”
“Where are they supposed to go?”
“If I help them regularly, is this going to encourage more homeless to come here?”
“I don’t mind them being around, but they make me nervous.”
“Why weren’t there any homeless people actually in attendance at that meeting?”
“Where do we get the money and resources to deal with the problem?”
“What do we do?”
That last one is the million-dollar question.
I believe I may have mentioned before that not only are there “traditionally” homeless people, people who are chronically homeless because of mental health problems, but employed, longtime residents who can no longer find affordable housing. That one is a growing concern among many. Even if they could afford the extreme rents, there just aren’t as many rentals available as more and more become vacation rentals or second homes.
My own son, home from Portlandia on a recent visit, just for the heck of it decided to play with the idea of moving home.
“There is no such thing as an ‘entry level’ house, not by most standards, anyway! They are all giant places that are more than any new family would need, with no yard … it’s really discouraging,” he sighed.
Mind you, his new bride is a teacher and he is quite successful there in the Northwest in the computer industry — fine upstanding citizens who would be a boon to any community. There is just this artificial inflation of value in many areas of the state that make it ridiculous to live there.
Another statement that came to my inbox was about the actual number of homeless. While many in the town or even county believe the number hovers around 35 or so, others say it is more in the 125 range. Who are they counting? I believe it may be the folks who silently go about their business but live under the following circumstances.
When I first moved here in 1981, there was a migrant worker position at the schools to help the large number of those folks who used to live here. That is no longer the case. However, I do remember the definition of “homeless” for the California schools was and still is (http://bit.ly/2tH6b0c — see pullout).
Which brings us back around again to, “What should we do? Who are we able to help? How?” I ask these as open questions, looking for answers and guidance. We know it “takes a village” but when half the village wants to look away or merely make “them” go away, and the other half realizes that some of these are people who keep our restaurants and landscapes going or are good people simply struggling in the world and are an undeniable fact in our life, that common ground may be hard to find.
I hope not.
Dianne Brooke’s column appears weekly and is special to The Cambrian.
Defining homeless children and youths
The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless children and youths as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This definition also includes:
▪ Children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason
▪ Children and youths who may be living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, shelters, or awaiting foster care placement
▪ Children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings
▪ Children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings, or
▪ Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are children who are living in similar circumstances listed above