Comstock's magazine 0119 - January 2019 - Page 13

LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER n IN NEED OF A PLACE TO BELONG PHOTO: ELEAKIS & ELDER PHOTOGRAPHY "T here’s no place like home” is a familiar phrase, evok- ing and socializing. It’s a model used by other cities that can be ing images of a warm hearth and family. For most of us, adapted to provide job training, counseling or drug treatment. home is a place of refuge, where we feel safe and can rest • Also in Austin, a housing charity (New Story) and construc- and recharge from a long day. It’s something I’ve thought on tion company (ICON) developed a home with components extensively while producing this month’s issue on housing. that can be constructed from a 3D printer, making the plans There are, of course, many problems — whether causes or accessible and affordable. Their one-bedroom homes are consequences — associated with homelessness, from drug ad- designed to be clustered around a common cooking and so- diction and trauma to incarceration and canyon-sized gaps in cial space. The cost for these 650-square-foot homes can be our mental health treatment systems. But I think the driving as low as $4,000, and can each be built in 24 hours. cause is isolation. When problems lead people to drugs, alcohol These co-housing models, and others like it, connect hous- or mental illness, those without friends, family or some other ing with space for treatment and job training. Most important, support system to hold them up tend to fall into homelessness. they create communities for those without family support; a Too many members of our community don’t have a front foundation for creating a self-sufficient life. door to shut out the rest of the world for a night. California And if the region can’t find a solution on land for this type has one-quarter of the nation’s homeless, with 130,000 people, of housing, perhaps we can look to the water. Consider a ship according to the Federal Department of Housing and Urban permanently berthed on a river or at a port to provide co-hous- Development. That’s a number I find heartbreaking. ing on a grand scale. Former staterooms could be transformed According to the most recent official count, 3,665 people into living space for hundreds of people, with other spaces in Sacramento County are homeless on any given night, sleep- dedicated to support programs. The built-in infrastructure, ing on concrete or any wayward spot they can find to ward off such as kitchens, could be collective gathering places. the cold. That’s a 30 percent increase between 2015 and 2017. Making this work would require untangling a lot of com- Based on a variety of reports, the number of people who are plex issues, from costs of acquisition to meeting public health homeless in neighboring counties totals about another 2,000. and drinking water standards. And it would require massive Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg recently announced coordination by elected officials and social service agencies that the city’s largest homeless shelter, scheduled to close in across bureaucratic lines throughout the region. December, would remain open until summer. That will give I admit that it’s an audacious idea, but the number of home- 100 people a place to sleep. He challenged other City Council less in our region is growing. Perhaps we need to think on a members to each find 100 extra beds in their districts. grander scale to find an untraditional solution. A warm bed on a cold night is a start. But the homeless The solution to homelessness is a home that meets their population needs more permanent options. needs. We need the type of housing that helps the homeless In November, nearly t wo-thirds of voters approved help themselves, where they can form communities, and find diverting $2 billion in ta xes to prov ide housing for peo- services and support. Just like the rest of us who have an ad- ple w ith menta l illness. There are some nontraditiona l, dress where we feel safe, they need a place to belong. but ver y effective, ways to spend those f unds and other housing dollars to address the shortage of shelter for those who need it. • Near Austin, Texas, Community First! provided homes for 200 chronically homeless people with a combination of per- Winnie Comstock-Carlson manent RVs and 300- and 400-square-foot “micro-homes" President & Publisher clustered around common space on 27 acres and is expand- ing another 20 acres. P.S. For more ideas on addressing homelessness in the Capital Region, read • Recent remodels of hotels on Market Street in San Francisco "We Must Think Locally to End Homelessness," by Ben Avey of Sacramento Steps have produced mini-apartments with shared space for cook- Forward at January 2019 | 13