Over the past 90 days local events and politics have divided us more than ever before. At the order of Judge Carter, our homeless populations in downtown Santa Ana and on the Riverbed have been moved into motels with little success in planning for mid and long term solutions. There has been a lot of argument and protest, but we must focus on solutions rather than rhetoric.
Our supervisors have allocated $90 million for housing for the mentally ill homeless. There are other funds available for housing. But first we must communicate more effectively.
We have the opportunity to build something great and to do it in a manner which will be an example for others not just to ameliorate homeless, but to break the vicious circle of mental illness, addiction, and incarceration as well. I believe that together, we can find a way forward.
Just over 18 months ago our Supervisors hired a leader to help solve the crisis of homelessness, Susan Price. In her 100 day report she stated that the two most pressing problems we have are a failure to communicate and a failure to cooperate.
United Way and UCI released a study on homelessness in 2017 which has led to a coalition to build 2,700 units of housing. It too is engaging a wide range of stakeholders.
Our Association of Cities has developed a regional plan to address homelessness with the goal of balancing needs and the availability of housing across the county. Lifting together, cooperating, and communicating makes for a lighter burden for all.
In a similar time frame, the Orange County Coalition for Behavioral Health has been taking shape to address challenges in mental health care and the treatment of our addicted. This coalition includes our hospitals: law enforcement: our county government and departments: advocates; our churches, and other stakeholders. It is a coordinated effort to improve the system of care for all Orange County residents.
There are all very powerful new developments. We are breaking down walls.
But we still are not talking and cooperating in the manner in which we must in order to make the best use of our resources and skills. There is a tremendous opportunity in front of us, and all of the elements for real change are in place. There is the political and moral will to do the right thing. There are funds available. And organizations and people are breaking down the communications barriers, the first step necessary.
We need to come together to discuss short, medium, and long term solutions. We need a vision statement and clear enunciation of principles.
Leaders lead from the front. There are many stakeholders and there are legitimate concerns. Let’s address these together and with vision and clarity. Let’s cooperate with compassion and common sense and solve some of our most pressing problems.
Matt Holzmann is Chair of Government Relations for NAMI Orange County
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