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This commentary originally appeared as a comment on “Two Years In, It’s Still Day by Day for Project 25 Tenants.”
Thirty-five people racked up $4.2 million in public service bills?!? Do the math and think about the fact that 35 people each used up $120,000 worth of resources in a single year. Presumably without paying anything more than a little sales tax into the pool of resources. The solution? Provide them with everything because it is cheaper and more sustainable to do so? Unbelievable.
I have lived in San Diego and the state of California for about 13 months and I am just astounded by what passes for solutions to problems and what people are willing to accept from their communities and neighbors. Just astounded. Then I look at what I paid the state in taxes and the overall cost of living and compare it to other states where I have lived in the past and I just get angry. Nobody does bureaucracy and ridiculous waste quite like California does. Is the weather really worth the price of admission?
I have been following the Voice of San Diego series on homelessness. I also live downtown and see the homeless everywhere, all the time. San Diego apparently has the third highest homeless population in the country and it shows. I have tried to even get involved and volunteer to help. What I have come away with is a disturbing level of frustration and a total sense of exasperation at what I see. I’ve read the county spends $200 million a year on roughly 10,000 homeless residents and the numbers don’t improve one year to the next. There is an entire industry dedicated to “helping” the homeless, yet from what I have read and what I can see taking a walk through this city is there has been no discernible impact in the homeless population in the state or county or city. There is no program that I am aware of that can be pointed to as being definitively and measurably successful.
I have also encountered a lot of homeless people who have lived that way for years, which makes me ask what they are really doing to try and improve themselves and their situation. What are they willing to invest to get off the streets? I wonder if Project 25 considers Joan Kloh a success story and if she is an example they hope to see others follow. Taken off the streets once and provided with a home and opportunity she thanks everyone by ending up in jail and losing that new home. However, once out of jail Kloh gets another chance and is given another home and another new opportunity which she has responded to by taking in her boyfriend, who I do not read about being part of Project 25 but is allowed to be living in Project 25 housing. Then Kloh proceeds to get injured, while drunk. This incident gives me pause. Since it involved a car running over her foot, I have to wonder if the police had to get involved, and since the foot obviously required medical attention, I wonder who is paying for that care.
It would seem that even while receiving all the benefits Project 25 has to offer Kloh is still generating additional public service expenses. This is all very difficult for me to reconcile: The fact that we are underfunding education, letting our parks and infrastructure crumble and cutting back every day on services funded by taxpayers then investing money in people like Kloh and the 35 Project 25 “clients” mentioned in the story who are generating upwards of six figures in expenses to the rest of us with little to no consequence.
But what do we do? What should we do? I hope that the first thing that Project 25 does when they take on a new “client” is to sit them down and explain that they as individuals have become enormous liabilities to the rest of society. That in fact they are stealing resources from everyone around them; that they do in fact have an obligation to everyone to change that and they are being provided the opportunity to do so. These opportunities should absolutely come with strings attached because each one of them comes with a price tag attached that the individual recipient is not paying. People generally do not end up homeless because they have made a lot of good decisions and fostered a lot of good relationships in their lives. Major change should be a requirement to receive public benefits. Otherwise what are we doing other than sustaining the unsustainable?
Jake Vogelsang lives in Golden Hill.
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