Letter: What the unhoused really need is housing

I see certain figures in our community repeatedly using the term “enabler” to describe those who attempt to reduce the misery of unhoused citizens by providing necessities like water and food.  Obviously this thinking shows a severe deficit of human decency and morality.  But it also arises from a factual error: The belief that essentially all homelessness is due to drug addiction and mental illness and that those who are living outdoors in our community should “earn” any help they get by first freeing themselves from drug addiction and “fixing” their mental illness.

Anyone who has actually spent any time with that community can tell you that’s a false belief. The common denominator among the unhoused is not drug addiction. It’s not mental illness. It’s poverty.  They are unhoused because they can’t afford housing. Indeed, some, including some of the most visible, do have profound mental health or addiction issues. Issues made much worse by being homeless. But a great many do not.  A great many are elderly or disabled people living on a Social Security or disability check that comes nowhere close to covering the cost of housing, here or anywhere else in California.

No operation of the private housing market is going to provide housing for someone whose monthly income is in the range of $800-$1,200.  The only way we are going to change this disturbing and inhumane situation is by government action and innovative thinking to provide housing that very low income people can afford.

— David Welch, Chico 

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