Watchdog – If you build it they will come – dealing with Antioch’s homeless
In addition to having the highest number of Section 8 housing choice vouchers (HCV) in Contra Costa County, we now have the highest number of unsheltered homeless in the county. That’s why I was floored when I read Antioch’s plan to address the problem e.g. establishing a Suburban Poverty Task Force and creating a voucher donation program though local businesses and PayPal.
Sean Wright, the altruistic CEO of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce, who recently touted KIVA, a micro loan program to give borrowers in Kenya and the United States limited access to capital through interest-free loans, is quoted as saying “We need to empower people to change their own lives by teaching them to fish rather than creating dependency”.
Informing the homeless about available resources for addiction counseling, job training and temporary shelter is one thing, but handing out voucher donations, will only encourage more homeless people to relocate to Antioch. Regrettably, handouts such as unlimited welfare benefits or food stamps create dependency, they don’t “teach people to fish.”
Although Antioch has a law allowing it to fine private property owners for cleanup and ongoing inspection fees which Ryan Graham, Antioch’s deputy economic development director, states often compels the owners to break up homeless encampments, it is rarely enforced and doesn’t address homeless encampments on public property which are left to local law enforcement officers to deal with.
What is needed in this instance is proactive enforcement. Back in the days when the police department was located on 10 Street, there was a homeless population who used to camp in the city park on the corner of 10 and A Street. The Police Department at that time was so persistent in running them out, that one day a bunch of the homeless jumped aboard a boxcar and rode it out of town, never to come back. That’s the kind of persistence I’m talking about – not handing out vouchers which will only encourage the homeless to hang around for the “freebies.”