Santa Barbara County supervisors have about $40 million of our money burning a hole in their pockets.
The money has been earmarked in one way or another for the homeless.
The money can be used for various purposes. However, at the top of the priority list are various projects having to do with housing for the homeless.
I will be the first to admit that solving the problem of the homeless is extremely complex. There are some people who are homeless through no fault of their own, and these otherwise law-abiding citizens could become productive members of society with a little help. I believe our priority as a society is to help these people first and foremost.
On the other hand, upward of 80% of the homeless have mental health issues and/or drug and alcohol addictions. Moreover, a significant number of homeless people live a life of crime. These people must be willing to change and be helped!
Nevertheless, both the federal and state governments have bought into a theory that housing must come first to treat the homeless and reintegrate them into society. There is some merit to this thought process, as it is hard to hold down a job if you don’t have ready access to things the rest of us take for granted every day, including the ability to take a shower and put on clean clothes before going to work.
On the other hand, it has been proven that throwing a house at a criminal can serve to transform that house into a den of criminal activity. Ask the city of Santa Maria on that one.
The county plopped down one of these projects in that community, and crime in the neighborhood increased tenfold.
In San Francisco, some of these housing projects were used for purposes of prostitution.
Of course, Santa Barbara County supervisors should have learned the hard way that housing first comes with its own problems. When the county housed a number of homeless people in a couple of Santa Barbara motels during COVID-19, it soon found out it needed to hire security guards 24/7 to protect the residents from one another and the premises!
I believe the public would be more sympathetic and supportive of this effort if the supervisors would agree to a compact with the residents of this county. Namely, the residents of these facilities would have to agree to sobriety, no criminal activity, to become employed, and there would be a limit on how long they can stay in one of these facilities. That, along with an active and robust effort by the county to manage the client population.
Moreover, when the state and federal funds for these projects dry up, how does the county figure it can manage to keep these programs going?
By the way, in addition to purchasing an old sorority house in Isla Vista and a motel in Goleta, the county has been purchasing tiny houses to be placed on vacant lots and parking lots. The plan is to place upward of 250 of these units throughout the county.
Meanwhile, a certain number of homeless, along with organized theft rings, are vandalizing businesses on a regular and routine basis.
Some of our local farming operations have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars via the loss of vehicles, equipment, and supplies.
During a recent hearing, when the board of supervisors was approving a $1.5 million contract for private security services at various county buildings, some farmers asked the board if they could share some of this concern and wealth with agriculture. That is, if the county doesn’t believe it can rely on law enforcement to keep its own employees and properties safe, where does that leave the rest of us?
Andy Caldwell is the COLAB executive director and host of “The Andy Caldwell Show,” airing 3 to 5 p.m. weekdays on KZSB AM 1290, the News-Press radio station.