Nearly everyone here agrees that housing costs and the related homelessness is our biggest local problem.
Unfortunately I’ve seen several letters in the GT during the last few weeks that, while well meaning, have been tragically naive about the solutions to the problem.
Most annoying was the person complaining that they could barely afford a shared room and therefore supported “just start building—get it done!”
The sad fact is that Santa Cruz has about 1% of the SF Bay Area population of 7 million residents. Therefore even if we doubled the housing units here, the increase in supply would have very little change in the housing costs. We live near a very large metro area, and the large majority of new units are affordable only to those with salaries from the tech world, and just serve to bring more people to our town.
What are often ignored are the livability issues coming with large and unplanned growth. Where is the transportation infrastructure and water service supposed to appear from?
Another idea I take issue with was expressed in the letter saying, in effect, “we need to get rid of all those RV dwellers on our streets.”
Well, it’s obvious that there are undesirable side effects of unhoused people living in the streets. However the “just run them off” mentality ignores the fact that the question of where to run them off to doesn’t deal with the problem being far from unique to our area.
How about some proposals for solutions for the situation? Other areas have done much with many innovative programs that we could emulate, but Santa Cruz has gone through many millions of dollars with little visible progress.
As an example, a recent million-dollar grant to Santa Cruz was used to fund a $300K consultant study and two $15K a year “homelessness worker” positions!
As to suggestions for progress:
1. Hire several social workers with successful experience elsewhere to do outreach and help people get on programs that help generate income and solutions for them, such as SSI, GI benes, drug rehab programs, etc.
2. With such funds available, beneficiaries could fund their own costs for living in tuff shed villages, SROs, etc. Many folks aren’t capable, for various reasons, of pulling their lives together and thus end up on the street, but with a little support the issue could be greatly alleviated. This isn’t pie in the sky—numerous examples already are proving very effective in the U.S. and Canada.
3. Create RV parks that could also fund their operation by charging just a few dollars a day and provide structure, security and centralized plumbing facilities.
These could be in appropriate areas—such as industrial zones—and greatly reduce the impact of RV campers on the public.
Fred J. Geiger