A call for swift & practical action by elected officials in 2023
“2023 must be the year San Diego’s elected officials start the process of reducing homelessness. Clearly, they cannot proceed in the current failed direction. We believe this plan is a practical strategy to change the momentum, help those in need, and protect public safety and health.” – Drew Moser, Executive Director, Lucky Duck Foundation
The public health and public safety crises of homelessness require an emergency response from all elected officials throughout San Diego County.
The conversations that have focused on fixing the entire problem have gone nowhere while the problem is getting worse. The talk never ends but the limited action has yet to deliver any kind of perceivable progress or vision.
The Lucky Duck Foundation remains steadfast in our mission to alleviate the suffering of homelessness throughout San Diego County. As such, in addition to the many programs and efforts the Lucky Duck Foundation funds and leads, we will focus on three priorities in 2023:
- Reducing the criminal element that revolves around the homeless population. It is essential that law enforcement focus on the segment of the homeless population who are committing crimes. This has to be the top priority of law enforcement. Elected officials must adopt ordinances and laws that enable better and more consistent enforcement and prosecution. Unfortunately, as the homeless population has grown, the amount of criminal activity amongst the homeless population has also increased. Some of these incidents have occurred against women, children and elderly and others who are vulnerable. We call on local governments to adopt ordinances that appropriately focus law enforcement in a manner that helps address this situation and ensures a higher level of public safety. Importantly and specifically within the City of San Diego, the City Attorney must aggressively enforce the ordinances and prosecute when these laws and ordinances are violated.
- Addressing youth homelessness. Youth make up about 8% of the County’s unsheltered homeless population. Approximately 50% of the chronically homeless population experienced homelessness as youth and more than 25% of homeless individuals surveyed in the County said they first became homeless before the age of 25. As one youth social service provider says, “we have to help these kids while the cement is still wet.” We will take steps to prevent and end youth homelessness in our region once and for all.
- Addressing senior homelessness. Homeless adults over the age of 55 account for 25% of the County’s unsheltered homeless population. Forty-seven percent of those seniors became homeless for the first time in their lives, and 57% have a physical disability. The most common cause of homelessness amongst seniors is economic, because many live on fixed incomes and cannot keep up with rising housing costs and inflation, plus, available housing vouchers are limited. Addiction, mental health issues, and criminal behavior across the senior homeless population are rare. We will take steps to prevent and end homelessness for seniors throughout San Diego County.
While some people argue that many homeless individuals want to reside on the streets, our focus will be on taking the seriously at-risk people who want to be off the streets and are homeless through no fault of their own – such as youth and seniors – off the streets.
This can be accomplished in part by urgently activating government-owned properties to add shelter and housing. For example, several City-owned parking lots are underutilized, and could be put to better use to help house those struggling with homelessness. There are specific government properties that can and should be a site for industrial tent structures to house several hundred (500+) individuals who are currently living on the streets. These structures can go up within months for less than a quarter of the cost of adding or acquiring housing.
Additionally, pallet homes, safe parking, safe camping, and other quick, humane and cost-effective strategies can and should be opened on these lots.
While housing with supportive services is an ideal outcome, this long-term approach cannot be the only focus. The current state of homelessness requires adding immediately available pathways off the streets – and as many as possible. After all, no one fights a wildfire by planting more trees; addressing homelessness is no different.
All this to say: we call on regional elected officials to activate government-owned properties as homeless shelter options and to remove the criminal element from the streets. Our focus is to advocate for and accelerate ideas and actions that will start the process of reducing homelessness.
While we call on elected officials to take these simple yet practical steps, the Lucky Duck Foundation will remain focused on alleviating the suffering of homelessness for those who are willing and able to quickly and permanently end or avoid homelessness, particularly youth and seniors.
Is this plan perfect? No. But neither is leaving criminals and others on the streets who shouldn’t be there while the homeless population grows each year. This is our attempt to inspire change and reduce homelessness.
We hope we can count on your support to fulfill this vision and to encourage elected officials to take practical action.
To get involved and support, please visit https://www.luckyduckfoundation.org/.