Just when it seemed emergency bed needs were stabilizing or drifting slightly downward along comes another challenge… early prisoner releases.
Because many of these individuals have no “home” to return to they end up hitting the streets of Skid Row. Some looking for help – some looking for trouble. This trend was noted by LAHSA in the 2013 homeless count earlier this year, but it is in full force now.
As noted by this LA Times story, http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-jail-early-release-20130901,0,5286701,full.story, this is a growing challenge.
Despite work by several excellent agencies and cooperatives such as LARRP, who are attempting to address the social needs of those incarcerated before and after release, the challenge remains that homelessness amidst the early release population seems to be increasing.
Is it real or just politically motivated? That question is addressed by this LA Times editorial: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-early-release-prisoners-california-20130901,0,7579015.story
With shrinking dollars from HUD available for housing in LA and across the US, my simplistic mind says…
Can’t we find a way to address both issues simultaneously? Two thoughts come to mind immediately:
- Governor Brown’s building plans should go forward… but not as traditional “prisons.”
- The emphasis on addiction recovery, mental health and services suggested by Democrats in the legislature should also be funded.
But here’s my simple suggestion for government… Build permanent affordable housing units that can be used for low impact criminals or parolees returning to society as needed, while at the same time utilizing our secure facilities for those truly dangerous to society.
Use the health services funds to address the needs of prisoners with hopes of reducing recidivism through proper medical care and mental health services.
Then, when the units are no longer needed for temporary prison relief, convert them into permanent affordable housing units.
Sound simplistic? Probably! Achievable? Maybe!
Worth at least some consideration in the political process by those chosen to lead with bold ideas? Absolutely!