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Letter to the editor: Fighting homelessness

I recently went to the emergency room for a leg injury and as I waited for a while, I notice that about half the people in the room were, if I were to guess, “homeless.” And they seem to know how to get in fast. The one I witnessed said he had “chest pains“ to get attention first.

A few years back I read about Scandinavian countries’ “housing first.” Its basic premise is if a person is drowning, you don’t demand that he learn to swim before you throw him a life-ring and tow him to land. Give homeless people housing, in other words, without demanding that they first quit drugs or alcohol, find Jesus, get a job, or enroll in a 12 step program.

Houston, America’s fourth-largest city, has moved more than 25,000 people off the streets and into homes of their own. Houston has one the most successful streets-to-housing program in the country. It’s not only cut homelessness and the crime and public health problems associated with it. It has dramatically improved the quality of life for the people of Houston who are not homeless. And saved the city a fortune on policing and emergency services.

— Danny Barron, Bakersfield

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