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Mayor’s Message: We won’t allow our parks to be overrun

Last week I provided the first part of an article authored six months ago by Drew Pryor, a founder of the Whittier Consortium on Homelessness, and myself, “The Flood: The Deluge of Homelessness in California, the Need to get to the Root Causes and How to do so.”

I want to finish out that article today (to get the first part of the article pick up last week’s newspaper or click here) and briefly talk about the impact on Whittier of the United States Supreme Court decision to NOT take the Boise appeal.

 

WHITTIER – We are doing nearly everything we can do locally, but are not able to address the source of the leak, the root cause. Many people are not in the capacity, nor have the ability, to receive help due to severe mental health illness and/or addiction issues. Instead they are being left on our streets to suffer.

This status quo is the opposite of a compassionate response. People desperately need access to treatment. Service-resistant individuals have been fueled by the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Martin v. City of Boise that has tied our hands and has contributed to an increase in tent cities throughout California (The City of Whittier recently talked with Boise encouraging them to appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court and we asked the League of California Cities to assist by filing an amicus brief requesting the Supreme Court take the case).

In Whittier we were fortunate that a collaborative effort between state and local government resulted in the clearing of Parnell Park and the Whittier Boulevard greenbelt and moved many of the homeless into temporary shelter where service organizations can better tend to their individual needs.

Through local, voter approved Measure H, the county has committed $3.5 billion over 10 years to address the homeless crisis. And Whittier is working closely with Supervisor Janice Hahn, who is helping to provide regional support on the issue. But even Measure H and the County’s Homeless Initiative is not able to truly address the root causes of homelessness in California.

And just recently California received the announcement from the Governor that he has convened a special task force on homelessness and is prepared to pour $1 billion into the task.
It is really good news that the State is finally focusing attention on the problem. But it is not enough to just spend money. We need to get to these root causes of homelessness.

On behalf of those working to find solutions to homelessness at the local level, the Whittier community, City of Whittier, and Los Angeles County, we need a productive conversation and agreement with state leaders to address the sources of the leak. Until the root causes of homelessness in California – mental health, drug and substance abuse, housing costs and recent criminal “reforms” – are addressed at the state level, local cities will continually be forced to mop up the leak.

So, let’s work together to fix the leak for all Californians … at the root level.

This week, the United States Supreme Court did not take the appeal of the Boise decision. This is a major disappointment for us . . . to provide a bed for each homeless person in Whittier (whether from Whittier or not) is cost prohibitive and just not feasible.

This is a federal mandate without any reimbursement for that mandate.

Be assured that we will continue to work on finding housing for our homeless who desire a bed but we cannot, and will not, allow our parks to be overrun in such a way that our taxpaying residents and their children are unable to use those parks.

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