Opinion

Burkholder: More Local Control Needed to Solve Homelessness

Written by Melanie Burkholder, candidate for Assembly District 76

Governor Newsom recently received a series of recommendations to reduce homelessness in the state from his Council of Regional Homeless Advisors, including a 40-point Comprehensive Crisis Response Strategy. While there are a few aspects of this plan that are laudable, the entire multi-billion dollar effort is yet another California big government solution, with the intent to layer complexity, impose solutions, and compel compliance upon local communities on an already difficult issue that will not have the desired net effect of reducing long-term homelessness.

Despite more and more top-down requirements, legislation, and ever-increasing funding, homelessness continues to worsen for the simple reason that California does not mandate solving the core issues of homelessness. Instead, the entirety of the plan continues to be founded upon California’s status of “Housing First.” While this sounds charitable, the state does not require the homeless to accept mandatory mental health, sobriety, or job counseling and truly fails to get fully beneath the underlying issues which are the root causes of the plight of the tens of thousands of homeless throughout the state, and the 7,300 right here in San Diego County.

A 2018 study by the Regional Task Force on Homelessness found that 27% return to homelessness in San Diego county after two years of being placed. The main tenets of the plan revolve around removing community inputs, placing more constraints on the use of private property, and adding billions to the state’s debt, including the appointment of an individual lead and supporting staff in charge of the entire program. Requirements are imposed on counties and cities to increase available affordable housing in direct conflict with so many state rules and regulations making such affordable housing so challenging. A recent Terner Center study found that over 75% of housing projects take four or more years to complete, and fees, permits, and regulations can add 6%-18% to the cost of a new home.

Instead of adding complicated law, regulation, and taxes on a system that is already failing, we need to do a better job and target those areas we know are increasing—unsheltered homelessness. Let’s focus on those areas of need, like facilities for mental health treatment—conservatorships, and increased drug treatment—instead of Prop 47. We have so many excellent nonprofit organizations and community-based resources that do a great job of reinstating and transforming people that have experienced challenges that led them to become homeless. They are not dependent on government and are quick and nimble. This localized, bottom-up approach is what we need, not the remote and centralized approach pressed on by Sacramento.

If Governor Newsom would just take a step back and stop doubling down on failed and conflicting bureaucratic solutions dropped on top of each other, Sacramento could finally help us solve our homelessness crisis. Instead of digging a deeper hole of failure, misery, degradation of communities, and bigger more expensive government, let’s reverse course and give more priority to local decision-making that actually helps people.

For more information about Melanie Burkholder and her campaign, visit MelanieForAssembly.com.