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Letter On Homelessness

As stated at the February 21, 2023 board meeting, I have never voted to make addressing the homeless population a top board priority. I have never voted to make it a top item on our legislative platform.  But four members of the board have voted to make it a priority, and I refuse to not participate in the conversation.  We may disagree but we were elected to act and not just talk.

If we as a community are going to effect change with the homeless, we need to start with something that works and then build on success.  I believe the area where we can find the most agreement in the community is transitioning women and children into permanent housing and employment in exchange for holding them accountable for the housing and services they are receiving.

Yesterday, I heard from constituents that they don’t even support this idea, at least not next to a school.  I also heard from county staff and officials that we cannot adequately screen out potentially violent or serious offenders because we have to follow the State of California’s Housing First model which explicitly excludes accountability.  I think we all would all prefer Housing First with Accountability.

Yesterday’s vote by Supervisor Brandon is not surprising and was expected. He will vote no to any homeless project in his district to protect his elected position, what we call NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard. What surprised me was Supervisors Haff’s sudden no vote and Supervisor Goldemberg’s public letter posted today on MML stating he would vote yes after not being at the meeting.  Declaring a yes vote on such an important issue without being present to receive all the important public input is inconsiderate. For example, we gutted the navigation center and narrowed it down to women and children.

If four members of the board want to address Homelessness as they have indicated, then all four members need to be in agreement (or at least three since Jaron will never vote for a project in his district). At yesterday’s board meeting, two were not in agreement and I carried a yes vote to allow Supervisor Goldemberg the opportunity to weigh in at the next board meeting. A public yes vote via a letter without hearing from the Columbia families is a potentially bad situation because he could now be backed into a corner to vote yes when the public’s live opinion and concerns might sway him otherwise.

If the Columbia Inn Motel comes back on the agenda, I will be voting no. It is too close to the school and I don’t have support for women and children, not even from Supervisor Brandon.

To the residents of Columbia, thank you for coming out.

To my fellow Supervisors, if you continue to make homelessness a priority, I will continue to work on a solution with you. We need to learn from these experiences and continue to do better. Don’t forget, we are the first board to take on this issue, so we learn and move on… we’re only people.