Solving the Homelessness Problem
I will be 82 years old soon and am not in the best of health, and things seem to be getting worse instead of better. I want to think positively, but have only a little hope. I would like to know that humanity is going to survive—and even thrive.
But for a while now I have concentrated my efforts toward seeing what I could do personally to ameliorate Fresno’s homelessness. See the WILPF page for information on the Dakota EcoGarden (DEG), which has been my project for the last 10 years.
I thought we’d have homelessness solved way before now! So, here’s my attempt to tell whoever may be listening what my thoughts are in this area.
The DEG has done a low-cost version of homeless housing, and I keep thinking some of these ideas could be used widely. But also, I have felt that we have to do lots of types of shelters and services for our varied homeless population.
We need more creativity in working on this problem. We have to include special attention to services and housing for the mentally ill and for those with addictions.
Amazing amounts of money have been coming to our city and county to help the homeless. Some of that money goes to making the problems worse. An example: a friend who bought property and was making progress toward having a mini–Dakota EcoGarden was shut down by the City’s code enforcement.
Here’s one specific change which could make a big difference: A tax on any property left vacant past a certain time would provide an incentive for the owners to do something useful with the property.
Again, an example: right next to the DEG is a big parking lot that used to be the City’s police substation for the area. The substation was moved many years ago, and this big lot could quickly be turned into a safe place for some of the many people who now live in their cars, or it could be a safe and legal campground.
If one of the strip mall buildings were included in the deal, a bathroom and meeting room would also be included. It has electricity, water and fencing all around.
Now it sits, a blight on the neighborhood, deteriorating and attracting graffiti artists and, guess what, homeless people looking for a safe place to spend the night. The property is now owned by a southern California corporation that wants to sell it for big money, and apparently figures that it will increase in value if they do nothing. (And indeed it has.)
A tax on vacant property could give them a reason to revise their thinking. There are cities that are trying this now.
Another idea: tax the rich. Surely it isn’t moral, ethical or even helpful for a few people to have so much money, and so many people to have not enough to live, let alone live well.
One last thought: Annalisa Perea, you are now the [Fresno City] Council person for the area in which the DEG is located, and you have visited. I have high hopes for you. Please don’t disappoint me. I will try to live long enough to give you a reasonable amount of time to make things happen. And if I can help with anything, please let me know.