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Guest Opinion: Citrus Heights should study feasibility of FEMA trailers for homeless families


Guest opinion submitted by David Warren–
Last month, Councilmember Bret Daniels raised the issue of transitional housing on Sayonara Drive for homeless individuals with children.  

David Warren

He asked that the council approve a study by staff of the proposal, such as cost, public safety, impact on schools, etc., but his fellow council members refused to entertain the request because of the manner in which it was presented.

Related: Councilman proposes using ‘FEMA-type’ trailers for homeless in Citrus Heights

At the Sept. 26 council meeting, Daniels repeated the request to have city staff research the issue, which was again rejected.  In a subsequent Sentinel news article, one councilmember justified rejecting the requested study based upon unknown costs that the city would incur, along with “individuals who are not now Citrus Heights residents seeking housing assistance,” while another councilmember indicated that a solution requires more than temporary low-cost housing.

Community members in letters to The Sentinel noted that the homeless problem is multifaceted, i.e., mental health issues, habituation, economic changes, etc.  An additional issue unique to Citrus Heights is that there is very limited undeveloped land upon which to construct housing which could be made available to individuals who are now homeless.

There is obviously no simple solution and there is no one-size-fits-all remedy.  Although the city cannot resolve the homeless problem unilaterally, we can help a targeted group, such as the approximately 100 homeless children (and their parents) in Sacramento County who were identified by volunteers who canvassed the county in January. 

By cautiously identifying the group who will occupy the housing, the city can avoid the problems associated with housing the mentally ill and habituated.

Importantly, it is being overlooked that Councilmember Daniels did not propose that the housing be currently constructed on Sayonara Drive.  Instead, Daniels requested that the council approve an investigation of costs and potential associated problems with the proposal.  A study would address Councilmember Steve Miller’s legitimate concerns as to cost and impact upon municipal services. 

As to attracting individuals with children who may not reside in Citrus Heights, homelessness does not stop at the city boundaries.  If the city is able to provide transitional housing for children, then surrounding cities and counties can focus upon the habituated and the state upon the mentally ill.  Perhaps Councilmember Miller should review what Jesus said in Mark 10:13-16 before rejecting support for the study of transitional housing for families with tender age children.

As to the objection that establishing transitional housing is a bandage which does not solve the homeless problem, that is absolutely true.  There is no universal immediate solution available then, if it is fiscally viable. 

Isn’t it better to do something, even if it only helps a small number of individuals, than do nothing?  If every community in California provided 50 transitional housing units for children in their community, there would be no children sleeping in the back of cars on insufferably cold or hot nights without access to beds, toilets and showers.

Before there can be serious consideration of setting FEMA-type trailers on Sayonara Drive, the costs and impacts upon the community must be completely studied.  There is as good a chance that the costs will be unsustainable by the city as that there will be sufficient grant funds from the State and Federal governments to make the proposal worth pursuing. 

The transitional housing proposal, if feasible, should require the following four things:

  1. A sunset after five years of operation unless renewed by a subsequent City Council.
  2. Restrictions including limiting the housing to a time period of six to seven months.
  3. Require payment of rent which would be refunded in full in the last month to the tenants to use as first and last months rent and security deposit for regular housing.
  4. Immediate removal for possession of illegal drugs or being under the influence. 

The time has come for the city leadership to recognize the truth behind Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, words, that “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

Ignoring the problem instead of studying potential solutions should not be accepted by our community. 

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, George H.W. Bush’s inaugural address on Jan. 20, 1989, reminded all of us of the necessity of “a thousand points of light” to aid those who suffer. 

Our city councilmembers should not adopt a “not in my neighborhood” (NIMBY) view of the world.  The refusal to even study the proposal is contrary to the tenets of faith of our social and ethical values, as personified by Genesis 4:8-10.

David Warren is a Citrus Heights resident and legislative advocate at the State Capitol with Taxpayers for Public Safety. He can be reached at David@forpublicsafety.com.

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