By implementing a “rapid rehousing” policy, hundreds of communities around the U.S. are moving from blaming, shaming and punishing the homeless, to understanding, nurturing and providing homeless people a safe place to recover and heal.
In California, Orange County is changing its policy from putting people in temporary shelters to providing them permanent subsidized housing. So is Los Angeles — where 25,000 people are homeless. Instead of trying to force people who are homeless to change their behavior by criminalizing every aspect of their lives — such as ticketing them for leaving their belongings on public property — LA is moving toward a solution-oriented approach, including providing the homeless with places to store their property.
In Stockton, Mayor Anthony Silva organized a cleanup effort of a homeless camp. He and 15 homeless spent the afternoon filling two huge trash bins. He provided the camp with three portable toilets with sinks. San Luis Obispo County's 50Now program is ahead of schedule in housing the 50 most vulnerable in the community, with a resulting reduction in arrests, jail time and ER visits.
Sacramento police, on the other hand, still ticket the homeless for camping.
As one homeless advocate pointed out, by providing people who are homeless with only temporary shelter, by further traumatizing them by enacting and enforcing laws against sleeping in cars, camping, or sitting or lying down in public, all we’re doing is managing the homeless, shuffling them from one part of the community — or from one community — to another.
It’s safe to say that most people who are homeless have very high ACE scores. And if you want to see a healthy change in someone with a high ACE score, traumatizing them won't work. First, you get them in a safe place where they can begin to trust the people in their surroundings enough so that their brains are no longer stuck in survival and/or fight-flight-or freeze mode. Then and only then do they have a chance to heal. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty has a menu of model policies to help communities do just that, and a map that shows the communities that have passed laws targeting the homeless by making it illegal to live in your car, sit or lie down in public, or camp.