Criminalizing homelessness is not the answer: Letter to the Pasadena’s Public Safety committee-

1 Feb

Dear Public Safety Committee,

I regret that I am unable to join you for your critically important meeting, Tuesday February 2nd, as I have a standing commitment on Tuesday evenings. But hopefully you will take to heart my deep concerns. My heart sank when I heard that last year $88,000,000 was spent on police, of the $100,000,000 set aside for seeking to end homelessness in Los Angeles. This is no way to treat the most vulnerable in society. We need to be compassionate like Utah and do all we can to provide housing, not money on police to arrest and manage these, our more vulnerable brothers and sisters.

Have you seen the hilarious video about ending homelessness in Utah by John Stewart? See this link:  https://vimeo.com/121173941

This conservative state has shown us how to be compassionate.

Creating ways to make it illegal to be on the streets in our commercial cores is a double standard, since we have millions who stay overnight on our streets on New Year’s Eve. Criminalizing homelessness is both immoral as well as expensive, costing us much more to make arrest and fill our  jails. A better way is to demonstrate  hospitality and provide permanent supportive housing. We know what works to end homelessness. The Housing First model works and that is where our money should be spent. Arresting the homeless for pan handling and sleeping on our streets is saying that our public spaces are only for the public that has money to spend in our stores.  Public land is to be public for all.

As a Christian, I believe that cities will be held accountable for how we treat the most vulnerable in society. How would we want to be treated if we had fallen on hard times? I’m quite sure that I could easily resort to aggressive behavior if I was desperate and homeless and had burned all my bridges with family and friends. Mercy melts aggressiveness. We have an opportunity here in Pasadena to learn and demonstrate compassion as a city to those who visit our great city and to neighboring cities. Please consider how Miami and San Francisco have created restaurant and hotel fees, which combined are expected to result in at least $80,000,000 for a housing trust funds (see pp. 23, 24 and 27 in the attached document). If our business community is concerned about not wanting to deal with homeless folks, they need to do their part in pitching in to help provide permanent housing as many other cities have done.

Years ago, our city somehow figured out how to pass a state law that applied only to Pasadena. This law diverted hundreds of millions of redevelopment dollars intended for affordable housing into the retirement accounts for police and fire personnel. This law was supposed to sunset in 2014, but the Redevelopment Agencies all closed before we had a chance to see this funding for housing. Let’s not make the same mistake twice by again funding our police on the backs of our most vulnerable. A hotel or business fee, or both, would be a small way to try to make up for the years of lost revenue that could have gone a long way in providing sorely needed housing over the past 20 years in our commercial cores. I believe there is a direct correlation between this lost opportunity to provide sufficient affordable housing, and the concerns today about aggressive panhandling and camping on the streets.  We  must learn from our mistakes and this time do the right thing, putting our dollars and policies where they will make a real difference and demonstrate compassion.

Jill Shook  (626) 675-1316

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