Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Continuum of Care

Gordon Johnson, webmaster for the OC Greens kindly suggested that I provide a bit of background on the shelter system for those not enmeshed in the daily struggle to house the poor.

When Leia and I started in 1993, the reigning paradigm was the Federal Continuum of Care: Given the job market at the time, it was ambitious and almost doable. IT provided for three levels of shelter, emergency, transitional and long-term, with interdependent tasks on the part of both the shelter and the guest to resolve the issue that caused the problem.

The first week the guest sought work, while the shelter provided "two hots and a cot" and little else. Guests were self-referred, and as a result, the shelter was to require only id and make a bed available on an "immediate need" basis. Guests were allowed to re-enter every thirty days if they couldn't graduate to transitional.

The next month, provided employment was secured, one could enjoy, in addition to the hots and cot, job development, case management, and generally some flexibility regarding the rules as required by one's employer. Usually, a referral from the emergency shelter was required to get in and guests with drug, alcohol and mental health problems usually got weeded out.

This is where the bulk of the Social Work was done, because the transitional shelter had to predict which people would be able to stabilize their social network to rejoin it. These were the guests who would be referred on to the long-term shelter. The rest could try for an "extension."

The next two years offered the real opportunity to rebuild. Once the guest was secure (passed probation) in their employment, the long-term shelter offered a shared apartment, help with groceries and the sole requirement that the guest save 80% of their check. Back then, even 80% of two years at minimum wages could provide a guest with first and last plus deposit, a real cell number, and maybe even a cheap car, or wiser, an OCTA pass and a three-month cushion against future layoffs.

Even reading this now seems ironic. No-one save a petroleum site remediation engineer can get a job in a week or less, and temp-to-hire has all but eliminated probation in the blue-collar workplace. Worst of all, two years ago the Fed ceased funding the 7 day emergency program and as a result the entire Continuum has no entry point.

As a result, although many counties replaced the missing Federal money; rich old Orange County elected simply to lie. Inventing a new Continuum of Care that included, quoting Kelly Lupro, OC's Director of Homeless Prevention, "a coalition of all those who have a heart for the homeless," we all tried hard to ignore the broken nightmare that followed.

It's as if we called ourselves Christian and then closed all hospital emergency rooms in order to emphasize Christ's miracle healings. As a Catholic, I can promise you that, except for the Holy Salvation Army, Christians here are no more involved in emergency shelter than the Taliban is, even as voters!

Which brings me to my point. Please ask your City Council what provision your current City plan makes for the homeless. Now that the County has officially admitted that there are no "low threshold, non-subpopulation restricted emergency beds in the OC" you'd think that the Federal contingency plan for the homeless inherent in every City plan might actually kick in!

Not hardly. Your City, along with every other City in the OC (except Coto de Caza - don't ask) is waiting for their part in the County's 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness in Orange County. Google it.

The OC variant of this nationwide plan paradigm currently has no funding and no administration, so it's really just a pipe-dream. Nevertheless, taking the same people who mismanaged the last twenty years of smaller plans at their word, it will not provide a single emergency bed until 2013! Armory beds are provided by the Federal Government, despite the clamor to take credit on the part of our lying local incumbents.

Simply put, at least for Homeless 101: Orange County as a County provides not one immediately available emergency bed; not for the sick, nor for families with toddlers or infants, not for single women or men, not even for grandmothers who worked their whole life caring for others.

If Jesus comes back to Orange County for the Rapture I have no idea what we could say to him. Perhaps, given that we're largely Christians in name only, he'll skip us altogether and we'll be saved - at least from that indignation if nothing else.

We're organizing a religious/political movement to represent the interests of homeless women and children in the OC.

To join, email me at dwightlsmith@gmail.com.
Or you could just pray to Jesus for miracle housing.

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