The recent column by Ron Fink, "Homeless forum consensus — no solution" is full of misguided opinions. We helped Lompoc's Mayor Lingl and the Lompoc City Council organize this event, and we feel the need to correct the record.
The Lompoc City Council met on May 23 for an informative sharing of ideas and solutions on how to help Lompoc's growing homeless population. It was a well-attended, very hopeful event with providers sharing their successful efforts. Mr. Fink's views on this event make me wonder if he was really there.
The many nonprofits, civic leaders, law enforcement officials and faith leaders who are experts in the field, and who devote our lives to this issue absolutely do know how to solve the problem of homelessness — provide housing with supportive services to keep people housed. Reams of national evidence from both afar and as near as San Luis Obispo show that over 80 percent of rapidly-housed, well-supported homeless people stay housed for over two years following this intervention. The problem is not a lack of knowledge, it's a lack of affordable and available housing.
The reality Mr. Fink seems to not want to see is that Lompoc's increased homeless population count is the result of two factors — rising costs and better outreach.
First, C3H and many other organizations have conducted in-depth outreach to the homeless population in Lompoc. This outreach enabled us to count, for the first time, dozens of long-time Lompoc residents who do not have homes in our biennial count last January. These new connections mean we can help people get access to shelters, medical help, food, clothing, showers, identification and housing — work we are doing every day in Lompoc.
Second, and perhaps most important to our policy makers, economic growth contributes to homelessness unless measures are taken. Lompoc, like many communities, is seeing costs rise in the housing market. This is great for new development opportunities, and will lead to the creation of new jobs and new housing.
However, it also leads to more evictions and rising rents. The perception that more people are on the streets or living in their cars is because housing costs have risen faster than wages in our communities. Landlords want more rent and they are getting it, so they evict those who cannot make these payments. People lose jobs, or come here seeking work, and can't afford to pay for the limited and more expensive housing that exists.
The one point I agree with Mr. Fink on is that we do not do anyone a real service by giving them a handout. There is certainly nothing wrong with meeting a person's immediate needs, however, such handouts don't solve the problem. The problem is solved when neighbors welcome mixed-income housing in their community, when cities provide zoning, land and subsidies for more affordable housing, and when businesses hire people at wages that match the cost of living in a region.
There are dozens of people in your community working to help those without homes, those who suffer from mental illness and drug addiction, and those who are poor or in crisis. They work tirelessly, and deserve your support and welcome. They are at the front lines improving your community, and finding real solutions to problems of neglect and economic inequality.
Contrary to Mr. Fink's opinions, there is both a consensus and a solution. Come help us take these to scale.