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Re: RAND Rethinks Homelessness in Los Angeles (Santa Monica Mirror, March 1-7).

“Don’t pour more money into shelters, but go straight to permanent housing: that is the fix for chronic homelessness,” said Torie Osborn, Mayor Villaraigosa’s special advisor on homelessness. This was the conclusion of the panel of “experts,” made up of retired County Supervisor Ed Edelman, Santa Monica’s homeless czar; Torie Osborn, RAND psychologist; Suzanne Wenzel, a Senior Behavioral Scientist; and Paul Koegel, Associate Director of RAND Health.

This is no “rethink” for Los Angeles homeless authorities. For the last five years Bring Home LA, a Los Angeles County and city coalition of homeless agencies’ stated goal is to provide permanent housing in 10 years. RAND is just restating the Bring Home LA concept, but with a greater emphasis on withdrawing support for daily homeless existence.

After five years, Bring Home LA concluded that permanent housing costs for all 100,000 homeless people in the county would exceed 40 billion dollars, money they don’t have. Their own homeless census revealed that in LA County there were only 12,000 beds for approximately 100,000 people on any given night. In the meantime, 88,000 people on any given night were left to camp on the street, even though camping in public is against the law. Almost every homeless person who has spent any time on the street has gotten camping citations that can lead to jail time.

RAND’s approach is purely ideological, i.e., stop funding street camping and it will go away. By cutting funding to programs that deal with realistic needs of the poor, such as food, shelter and medical, and by invoking criminal laws against the poor for camping, sitting, laying, washing, dosing, etc., the homeless are caught up in a downward spiral towards jail or illness, but usually both. That is reality. Wanting it to be gone with some permanent housing dream is the fantasy or delusion possessed by so many in government and their support agencies like RAND.

Even though Bush demands his way, his failure is that wanting something and the reality of something are often quite different.

The position that RAND and company use as their ideal for ending homelessness is in reality a psychotic bipolar approach that ignores the suffering of thousands of poor people year after year. On the one hand RAND ideally promotes permanent housing, even though the resources are not there, and if they were, who would have the incentive to work? RAND’s extreme opposite approach is to abandon daily homeless support for the needs of homeless people and to virtually criminalize being poor in public.

Both permanent housing and criminalizing homeless people are not realistic approaches and are not new or “rethinking.” These two opposite approaches neither end homelessness nor reduce the foul clutter and suffering of the poor.

Solving the homeless problem will come as a result of the rebuilding of the middle class in general. For thirty-five years the working class has suffered a Katrina of job demise. The homeless are being pushed onto the street by poverty in all its forms. Defunding support to people on the street only makes it harder for the poor to pull themselves up off the street.

The homeless are on the street now! People need a toilet, a private bed, a shower, a place to store their stuff everyday just like you and me. Instead of promoting the permanent housing fantasy year after year, why not consider public camping facilities. While society waits for these permanent houses RAND hypothesizes, public camping will at least realistically endeavor to meet the physical needs of the poor right now.

There are models for public camping. This is a realistic goal that would provide immediate relief to both the homeless and the areas fouled by unorganized camping. I have such a vision for public camping facilities. I don’t think there is anything unrealistic about providing a bed, a shower and storage on a nightly basis for people who can’t afford or can’t get into one of the shelter programs that currently trickle down to just 12 percent of those in need.

I am against the “all or nothing” approach that condemns thousands of poor people to live out on the street without physical support only to be criminalized by the police and attacked, raped and robbed by street predators and reviled by society.

Public camping facilities will some day be recognized as the missing component to sheltering everyone. Every city in this country will ultimately benefit by providing public camping facilities to everyone in need. Instead of giving a criminal citation to the poor for camping, why not provide a camping facility and reduce their suffering.

Randy Walburger

Santa Monica

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Senator H.R. Clinton is a thief – she and her gang robs us of our inheritance dollars. She voted to keep the “Death Tax.” Republicans voted to abolish the Death Tax. Also, Clinton now wants to rob the oil companies of billions. Who does this woman think she is – a master thief?

Never vote Democrat.

Rudy Pavlar

Santa Monica

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A big thumbs up to Sasha Stone for her kudos to Ellen DeGeneres (“Ellen DeGeneres Triumphs at the Oscars”). I heartily agree that Ellen was the best thing about the evening. I loved her myspace bit with Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg and thought her opening monologue set a wonderful tone of humor and humility. I hope they bring her back next year!

Dan Hamburg

Mirror Contributing Writer

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