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Homelessness

"People seldom refuse help if one offers it in the right way."
- A. C. Benson

The numbers are staggering. On any given day, nearly 400,000 Californians are homeless - one fourth of which are children. Our state officials have undoubtedly identified this growing social condition. We have created over 70 government-based programs statewide that offer services to the homeless, as well as at-risk individuals. Countless studies have been conducted, and yet we are so distant from truly solving homelessness as we know it. Let us refocus our efforts on the needs of the individual, not on the homogenization of policy.

Behind every homeless person lies a story of struggle, and we must better understand how each one has arrived at hardship. Government will not have all the answers, but it can certainly partner with local communities in order to locate people without homes and offer them a hand up. Temporary housing will greatly benefit those who seek help, and we can utilize the untapped outreach efforts of law enforcement to build and maintain facilities within their local jurisdiction.

California's housing crisis has furthered the spread of people living on the streets. We need leaders who can cultivate more development of affordable housing in urban and suburban areas. The nonprofit sector cannot handle the case loads alone.

We must also partner with substance abuse centers and psychiatric institutions when segmenting long-term care for certain individuals. At the same time, our strongest area of improvement can come from offering homeless people the necessary skills to acquire jobs and provide for personal security. It is government's duty to find community leaders in both the public and private sectors - local educators, entrepreneurs, real estate developers - and create additional incentives to work together on ending homeless in California.

It pains me to see this problem perpetually ignored by state legislators, primarily because the homeless do not have a powerful lobby in Sacramento. A turnaround is in order. Let us elevate their muffled voices throughout this decade until we can fully unleash the fiscal resources, love and support required to eradicate homelessness.

If there is any confusion as to whether this issue requires the highest level of attention nationally and statewide, let us remember the countless veterans - serving from World War II to Vietnam - who are now fighting for survival on our very own streets. These men and women defended freedom in its hours of maximum danger. There can be no greater sense of urgency than opening arms and hearts to the brave heroes of this great country.

Female victims of domestic violence, as well as abused children often accept homelessness as the lesser of two evils. This settlement of conditions must not prevail. We must shoulder a greater responsibility in identifying these cases early and creating short-term aid for long-term personal revitalization.

Let us stand behind the principle that hope must never dissolve. Whether the anecdote requires food, shelter, treatment, new skills, confidence or love, may we demonstrate a newfound sense of compassion for the homeless of California. It is this fundamental effort that will strengthen our society and its priority on all people.



You can reach Michael Wissot by contacting SymAction Communications