Homeless Task Force Meeting
Here are some tardy, random observations from the Homeless Task Force meeting I attended on Wednesday:
*After many, many, many months, progress is slow - the term "glacial" comes to mind.
*Current Chairman of the group, Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Jeff Mathews, seems perfectly content to allow facilitator Larry Haynes to run the show. He spoke maybe a dozen words during the meeting.
*And Haynes does "run the show". He seems to be taking the discussions where HE wants them to go instead of letting the discussion among the members chart the course. I must state, however, that without his leadership this task force would be going nowhere.
*At this meeting they finally got around to crafting a preliminary definition of just who is a "Costa Mesa Homeless Person". This is important because only "Costa Mesa Homeless People" will be eligible for whatever benefits come out of this process - as yet undefined.
*After all the identification and sifting of homeless people is completed based on the template being refined now, we will still be left with a knot of chronic homeless folks who don't fit the criteria of being a "Costa Mesa" homeless person.
*Plans for those individuals is unclear, although Mathews was heard to mutter "jail" during the discussion. Bus tickets out of town was also mentioned.
*Some of the task force members carry into the mix the very significant burden of personal bias.
*The task force is using as guidelines programs in place in Pasadena and Ontario.
*It was interesting to learn that Costa Mesa DOES NOT have a homeless Latino problem. That tidbit of information had a couple long-time Westside activists in the room shaking their heads in disbelief.
*I've attended half the meetings and, so far, it seems that the sub-committees formed early on are not doing much. They seem not to be meeting and not reporting progress on any areas of their assigned responsibilities. (In an earlier meeting I attended, then-chairman Steve Smith scolded sub-committee chairwoman Judi Berry for her efforts and demanded she and her team go back out and do their canvassing again. Berry quit the next day.)
*The task force will present a progress report to the City Council on September 6th. That should be interesting.
*They have scheduled a lunch time workshop on Housing Options for September 9th.
*They have scheduled a Saturday workshop on October 15th to prioritize goals and strategies.
*They will present yet another progress report to the City Council on November 15th.
*Despite having no meetings scheduled for November and December, on January 18th the Homeless Task Force Plan will be presented to the Homeless Task Force. What? How does that work?
*On February 21st the Homeless Task Force Plan will be presented to the City Council.
I'm left with some lingering apprehensions.
WE CAN'T SOLVE IT COMPLETELY
First, based on what I've heard so far, we are not going to solve the "Costa Mesa Homeless Problem" 100%. As long as there are private agencies providing services to homeless people and others there will be homeless people in Costa Mesa. And, as long as they are here and continue to complicate the lives of residents they will be an issue to be "dealt with".
Larry Haynes is a VERY smart fella with a wealth of background in the "managing the homeless" issue and certainly seems to be the right guy to be the "facilitator" of this group. His "Mercy House" is among the leaders in this "industry" - and Jim Righeimer is on the board of the organization. Perhaps, just because I don't trust Righeimer, I'm apprehensive about what might be in this for him, Haynes and Mercy House as the plans for funding solutions to the homeless problem begin to materialize.
From the beginning Haynes placed himself in charge of "data" and, as he stated Wednesday evening, "..without data we don't have anything".
I found myself thinking "And he who controls the data controls the agenda".
REASON PREVAILING - SO FAR
So far, those few members of the Task Force that seem to be driven by a personal agenda have not been effective in swaying others in their direction. That's a good thing, in my view.
I'm trying to keep a positive thought about this process. Something MUST be done to address homelessness in our city and this task force is the only game in town.