Massey: Year Round Homeless Shelter is a Must

I sat with my eyes closed on Veteran’s Day evening in a room with other like-minded young professionals, students and elected officials. We remained silent as we reflected on the incredible contribution of those men and women who have given their time, passion—and sometimes lives—serving in the military.

In that moment I felt a feeling of gratitude develop in me, but another accompanied it: shame.

I was ashamed at the fact that we so often fail to turn this gratitude into proper care and support for our veterans. The truth is there are veterans whose existence we practically ignore—the homeless ones.

How are we content to see the men and women who fought for our freedom go without a warm bed at night? Hundreds of homeless veterans live in Orange County, and each and every one has a unique story we seldom hear or even think to consider.

We have this exact same complacency toward the story of every homeless person in our county. Unfortunately, we seem to be witnessing an ever-increasing number of these stories. We need to start humanizing the “issue” of homelessness rather than thinking of it as simply one large, bothersome problem to be discussed—or in our case, often ignored.

Homeless individuals who live in our county are not a political “issue.” Nor are they a partisan one. In fact, they are not an “issue” at all, and it is high time that we start seeing them for who they are: people. They are individuals with families, with backgrounds, with unique gifts and abilities. They are the child who ended up on the streets because her dad lost his job in the recession. They are the friend who was kicked out of the house, abandoned by his parents when he came out. They are the sibling who lost the ability to afford rent at the same time as she began facing debilitating mental illness.

All of these stories should burden us just as much as I was burdened as I considered the experiences of our neglected veterans. Yet somehow we are able to see our homeless population as a flaw in our community rather than as individuals in need of assistance. This is wrong, and we need to move our county forward to provide support to our people who are struggling. Everyone should have access to basic resources and the opportunity to thrive. All people deserve safety and the comfort of a roof over their head.

This is exactly what a year-round, multi-service homeless shelter would provide. However, in all of America, our county is the largest region of its size to not have such a facility. Time and time again we have failed in Orange County to put our good intentions into practice and open this much-needed shelter. We can no longer wait. We have now been presented with the perfect opportunity, not just to think about the stories of the homeless, but to actually move to help those individuals who have been for so long ignored.

The OC Board of Supervisors meets this Tuesday, November 17 to make their final decision on the opening of a year-round shelter at 1000 Kraemer Place in Anaheim. This location is ideal, providing peace of mind and support to our entire community. It’s time we unite as we speak in support of those who face homelessness.

The meeting of our Supervisors on Tuesday is critical, and so is our presence there. We need to join together at the meeting, lay down our political weapons and be the change we want to see in our community. I will be there—with the OC Young Democrats by my side—supporting basic dignity and opportunity for all. I ask that you would be there too.

Justin Massey is a recent college graduate and the co-chair of Orange County Young Democrat’s Multicultural Equality Committee. Follow Justin on Twitter: @JustinSMassey

  • David Zenger

    “This location is ideal, providing peace of mind and support to our entire community.”

    And based on what great store of knowledge or experience is this fatuous statement made?

    The location is about as far from ideal as could be imagined.

    • Jacki Livingston

      It actually is ideal. There are two SSA offices and the administrative office where policy is made and appeals are done, just down the road. There are NO SOCIAL SERVICES OFFICES DOWNTOWN. Additionally, there is greater freeway access, better traffic, Social Security offices, Kaiser offices, and bus lines that run late into the night and early in the morning. The train stations are there.

      And my great store of knowledge is based on being homeless and poor, then working for SSA for fifteen years. Any smug comebacks from that?

      Actually, it is your last statement that is not factual or informed. It may not be ideal for YOU. However, YOU, by the grace of God, are not the population to be served.

      In short…you and the other NIMBY crybabies should get over it, and hit your knees to thank the Lord that you are not sleeping in the wind and cold, most usually through no fault of your own. Oh, and niiiiiiice ignoring of his point about how shamefully we treat our warriors returning home. There went the point, and you missed it by a mile.

      • David Zenger

        Take a deep breath and get control of your emotions.

        If more people used their heads instead of their “feelings” this issue could be approached as a series of responsible government decisions instead of a cluster of people trying to outdo each other with their level of concern – real or manufactured.

        For your information, and despite the fact that I don’t owe you any explanations about myself, I can tell you that I am not a NIMBY: I live no where near the Kraemer site. I just know a government boondoggle when I see one and that is exactly what the Kramer site is: a remote location that multiplies difficulties and creates even more problems. It will cost at least $8 million to acquire and remodel that property humans occupation, money that cold much more profitably be used in other ways to assist homeless people RIGHT NOW.

        • Jacki Livingston

          Typical male, telling a woman who knows what she is talking about and is passionate about it, calling her emotional. Why didn’t you ask if I was on the rag?

          It is not a remote location. It is a location that makes sense due to it’s closeness to multiple services. Given that nothing is ever done in OC in a manner that makes any sense, yes, it will be a boondoggle. That is true to form. But stop saying that it is remote from services, it isn’t.

          • David Zenger

            There are a lot of males reacting to this with their emotions, too so you have lots of company.

            I find it amusing that you believe an SSA office is the most important thing for a homeless shelter to be near. You don’t seem to grasp that the full service center INCLUDES SSA services as well as everything else – in one place. So yes, I have to conclude you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Sorry.

          • Jacki Livingston

            Really? A full service center is going to have SSA? Clearly YOU don’t know what YOU are talking about. Under Mike Ryan’s “leadership” *gigglesnickersnort* the entire business model for SSA is being turned away from direct client contact in person, and everything being done by phone and computer. I can guarantee you that Ryan is no more likely to put a direct service SSA office in any full service center any more than he is likely to become a rocket scientist. So, dearie, that is not going to happen. They are working hard to de-professionalize the work of eligibility techs at SSA, and the last thing that will help that agenda is putting a group of workers down there to deal directly with a population that needs that much coordinated assistance. Then, you have to add in veteran’s affairs, Social Security, Housing Authority from both the County and City, EDD, Department of Rehab, the list is endless. What with union negotiations, space fights, contracts, questions as to what insurance or worker’s comp would they be under…it is an impossible amount of bickering that will go on for years. David, they want to stop their own employees from seeing what they do within the agency, like rigging CalWin for their donors so they can steal. Do you really believe that these crooks want people from outside agencies to be able to see what they have been up to? Never gonna happen. Never.

      • David Zenger

        I ignored the “warrior” thing because it is not germane.

        • Jacki Livingston

          So homeless veterans abandoned by the powers that be in this nation that they fought to protect are not germane? How ducky for you. For me, they are a top priority, and a large part of why this issue is more important than people whining about their precious property values.