On a March 27 radio broadcast, Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer said Orange County should not be expected to provide shelter to its homeless population and that the solution to Orange County’s homeless crisis is to “put people in the High Desert and give them services … where land is cheap and away from everybody else.” Mr. Spitzer said the homeless should not be placed “where good hard-working citizens of California are trying to raise their families and pay their taxes and just enjoy a quality of life.”
San Bernardino County’s High Desert has a population of more than 450,000 good hard-working citizens of California who are trying to raise their families and pay their taxes and just enjoy a quality of life. In no way is the High Desert “away from everybody else.”
San Bernardino County is addressing its share of the homeless crisis without shipping people off to other communities. We have found that practically all of our homeless people were San Bernardino County residents or had close ties to the county before they became homeless, and we suspect the same is true in Orange County. San Bernardino County has received national recognition by assembling coalitions of local government, private-sector and community-based agencies to identify services, housing, and funding opportunities available to assist various sectors of the homeless population. Through this approach, San Bernardino County has been able to house virtually all homeless veterans and a sizeable portion of the chronically homeless population.
What San Bernardino County has done did not involve additional spending or the creation of any additional bureaucracy. All we did was assemble a group of knowledgeable people, identified and directed existing resources, and put those resources to work.
Another aspect of our county’s effort to address homelessness is to learn from what other counties are doing and share with them what we are doing. Twice a year, most recently on November 3, San Bernardino County participates in a roundtable discussion with a coalition of representatives from all Southern California counties – including Orange County – to exchange information on the nature of the homeless crisis in each of our communities, best practices and lessons learned. San Bernardino County looks forward to continuing that positive relationship as we all work to effectively and compassionately end homelessness.
Robert A. Lovingood is the Chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors
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