Opinion / Guest Commentary / Our Readers Write:
I’ve lived in La Jolla since 2000, and my husband Mark has owned Racket Stringing Workshop and lived here since the early 1980s. I would really appreciate coverage in La Jolla Light for a volunteer initiative I started called “Safe Healthy Neighborhoods, Central Coast San Diego.”
It’s a local grassroots effort that’s been gathering strength and numbers in the central beach area — from La Jolla Shores down to Mariners Point — most members, so far, live in La Jolla. The focus is on how to help our unhoused neighbors off the streets. We started in March 2018, initially just gathering to listen to community members, to hear what was most important to them.
This led to our hosting an event last December, “Mental Health First Aid,” at the La Jolla Library, with eight-hour training that included 90 minutes from the Homeless Outreach Team. Unfortunately, it was only listed in the community calendar. It was well attended, but I’m sure more people would have appreciated the knowledge if they had known about it.
We are ramping up efforts. Our plan, based on advice from another very successful grassroots organization in the Bay Area, is to do a survey to determine what our unhoused neighbors need most to get into the (social services) system and off the streets. We will start regular outreach in late September/early October.
Our next meeting is open to the public, 6:30-8 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019 at La Jolla Library, 7555 Draper Ave. One of the board members from the Regional Task Force on the Homeless (a La Jolla resident) will attend as well as a staff member from the County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency. We are collaborating with unhoused neighbors, a few local churches, the Community Christian Service Agency (CCSA), and the Pacific Beach Interfaith organization. Father Joe’s Villages is helping by allowing some of our volunteers to attend full-day training workshops that are normally reserved for their staff.
This is an entirely volunteer effort, but we need more people to know about it!
This topic is one that many community members are very concerned about. I see it as an opportunity for a series of stories. Topics could include the history of homelessness and why there’s been such a noticeable increase, the root causes of addiction, the complete lack of a working plan for our neighbors that suffer from mental illness (extreme shortage of mental health beds and extremely limited number of officers from PERT (Psychiatric Emergency Response Team) and HOT (Homeless Outreach Team), the limitations of what the police can do, and services like Safe Parking and storage facilities that help unhoused neighbors keep their jobs so they can get back on their feet.
A reporter could also explore the myth of abundant shelter beds and housing solutions, the makeup of the homeless population, where people lived when they became homeless, what we can do to assist people off the streets and get the services they are entitled to or explore questions about whether giving money directly to those homeless with no expectations or access to services helps at all and why some people chose to live in our area where there are very few services, etc.
There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding around this issue that we want to clear up. We are not interested in making life on the streets easier for people, we are interested in making the system work better and facilitating people to move off the streets!
I’ve been working with at-risk populations for more than six years, including some outreach to homeless populations downtown. I’ve got a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University and I am working as a consultant for non-profit social service organizations. I share this information because I want to be clear that this is not a feel-good effort, it’s a systematic approach to mobilizing our community to deal with an intractable situation that the government does not seem capable of handling.
• To learn more: Joanne Standlee of Social IMPACT Consulting can be reached at (619) 992-9152 or firstname.lastname@example.org
— Editor’s Note: La Jolla Light will report on the Initiative and its progress in upcoming issues.