Kriz: Jobs For Homeless, Property Tax Deductions For Neighborhoods Hosting Shelters

Businesses, residents opposing a proposed homeless center offer lawn signs.

As one reads with a mixture of hope / apprehension regarding Judge Carter’s management of the case lodged by the OC Catholic Worker against the County and some of its cities and its final outcome — currently the numbers still don’t add up even with providing emergency shelter for the County’s 4800 (2017 Point in Time survey) to say nothing of the 8000 people feared homeless in OC today, to say even less of the task of eventually finding permanent often supportive housing for them — one asks what to do?

Yes NIMBYism has been strong here this year.  Yet without finding means to give permanent, often supportive, housing to the 4800-8000 homeless people in OC, the same residents are going to be perpetually removing both needles / feces from their environs because the people who leave them will not “just go away” (because that they have NO PLACE TO GO).

So … if every building project is fought tooth-and-nail, we have to find ways around this problem. With a $1 Billion Trust Fund to pay for such projects but currently few places to spend it, why not use part of the money for tax credits to make housing of the homeless more palatable to property owners / neighbors.  Perhaps offering significant tax credits to apartment owners who make up to 10% of their units available for Section 8 low income housing vouchers would do the trick. Perhaps offering property tax reductions to property owners within 500-1000 ft of homeless shelters would change the dynamic of the debate, getting property owners to pull-out their tape measures to see if they’d qualify.

Then since one of the main complaints against helping homeless people has been that “they are lazy” why not seek to reverse the trend toward autonomization in our midst and: (1) do what Oregon / New Jersey have always done – ban self-service gas stations, and (2) ban automated checkout counters in our big box stores.  No one says anything about a $1/gallon increase in gasoline prices this past year-and-a-half that has largely gone to Saudi sheiks to help them finance ISIS / Al Queda sponsored plots against us, to say nothing of Vladimir Putin who continues to have nuclear weapons pointed on us.  (Yet some get upset about a 15c/gallon tax that helps fix for our roads…).  Why not accept another 10-15c/gal increase in gas prices that would create 10 full time, $15/hour, minimum wage jobs/OC gas station (at 100 gas stations county wide that’s 1000 full-time jobs) so that people who are perhaps a little troubled, a little slow, could find work rather than depend on their parents (or be out on the streets) until they die?  The same could be said of getting rid of the self-service counters at big box stores.  For an added cost of $1-2 cost/customer, 30-40 fulltime $15/hour jobs could be created per big box store!  At 50 big box stores in OC that’d be 1500-2000 simple jobs that would not only give currently struggling people, often on the streets, income.  These jobs would also GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO DO.

Every 36 hours an indigent person dies on the streets of OC.  We can continue to blame the victims and do nothing, or we could do what already the 4th chapter of Genesis asks us to do and accept that the homeless people around us are our brothers/sisters and seek to do something. Nothing I suggest above would be enormously sacrificial to anyone.  The question to the County is “Do we care (enough)?”

Fr. Dennis Kriz, OSM, is the Pastor at St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church in Fullerton

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