by Bil Aulenbach

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What’s Wrong with This Picture?

Orange County’s latest project cost $35 million and is located on a ten-acre campus with state-of-the-art housing for up to four hundred homeless occupants. Each separate area is entirely soundproof and temperature-controlled. The five-star facility is two stories and over thirty thousand square feet. It features a large reception area with friendly greeters, large outdoor recreational areas, well-marked drop-off locations, outstanding medical facilities, and classrooms for educational activities.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors is extremely proud of this facility, and one of the county supervisors has publicly stated that this huge expenditure serves a critical need in the county.

Did I mention that this facility, built on former a Marine Corps air station, is a shelter for dogs, cats, and other animals?

All this for animals—$35 million.

In contrast, homeless human beings receive harassment from the police, jail time, heavy fines, lawsuits, and NIMBYism (not in my backyard) from Orange County residents. Don’t try to help the sick, the poor, or the down-on-their-luck druggies—at least not near where I live.

What is wrong with this picture?

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Orange County Is Making the Same Hapless Mistakes on Homelessness that L.A. Did a Decade Ago” states that about 4,800 homeless people live in Orange County, which is far less than Los Angeles County’s fifty-eight thousand homeless. That number is so large because L.A. County has been kicking the can down the street for years, just as Orange County is doing now. Both counties portray homelessness as a criminal issue.

So, homeless people with mental health problems are arrested, sent to jail, and abused some more. (Incarcerating them costs hundreds of dollars a day.) Wouldn’t it be more prudent to put them in a five-star mental health facility, treat the root causes of their conditions, and support them until they can function independently?

Too many military veterans live on the streets because the United States has an embarrassingly terrible Department of Veterans Affairs that is notorious for neglecting our veterans, especially the most vulnerable. After so many years of trying to hold the VA responsible, maybe our tax dollars would be better spent on eliminating most of the present VA staff and hiring new people who care about and honor vets.

Today, we have a new breed of homeless people who are called the working poor. They have a steady job with benefits but can’t afford housing, so they live in tents or old RVs. Wouldn’t it be more prudent for cities to provide low income housing (which the law already requires) and make rent control work?

Many of the homeless have substance abuse issues. Drug abuse is a sickness, not a crime. As a former social worker, I think treating addiction as a crime is like giving terminal cancer patients jail time because they didn’t get well on their own. Drug dependency is a lifelong disease that can never be cured but only controlled with treatment.

I find it unconscionable that the leaders of my county pride themselves on spending $35 million to shelter animals but won’t spend big money to creatively and courageously end homelessness.

That’s what wrong with this picture—Orange County’s priorities are badly confused!

And where are the Christian churches in Orange County raising hell about homelessness? They are nowhere to be found! Jesus would be really ticked.

 

Image courtesy of Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose (CC BY 2.0)

4 Responses to What’s Wrong with This Picture?

  • I’m with you Bill!!

  • Am appalled at the Orange County Board of Supervisors’s priorities on the problem of homeless problem—-human beings. That is nice they do something about homeless animals but the bigger problem is really about people without homes and the social/mental problems these people face.
    I do live in Seattle and like most cities, has a rising problem—-which is homelessness. Near where I work, just two blocks down are 6 tents. There is another group of tents nearby south. In past, it was just the lone camper (or 2), now they have moved elsewhere.
    I do walk by these tents in mornings and afternoons to bus stop. They aren’t a threat as long as they keep to themselves, maintain their area and keep sidewalk clear. Where I work, there are workers who are blind and deaf-blind, hence the importance of keeping sidewalks clear.
    I will be attending a workshop at work where a speaker from the police department will discuss the homeless problem.
    From what I read, the city of Seattle is now trying to solve this problem, as there are already too many people in and around Seattle. This city is not the only one.
    In my opinion, the board of supervisors either have their heads in ground or are big animal lovers. Really homelessness is the county’s responsibility, not the animals as that can be done by groups who tends to homeless animals.

  • The only thing you have said that I disagree with is that drug addiction or alcoholism is a “disease”. It is an addiction. It is nothing contagious like a disease. It is only a problem if one drinks to excess. I know this because I spent 25 years sobering up my mom and stepfather. At the age of 64, she finally decided to quit drinking. I tapered her out over a few days. Luckily, this time she meant it and did stop drinking. You have to “use” to get this addiction.

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