Updated: Sep 21, 2021
Some things are happening in Redlands concerning the homeless. As those of you in Redlands CA know, the issue of “homelessness” has been a topic of much controversy and debate. What is being done? What is to be done? At the center of a lot of these conversations is the City of Redlands, and what it should be doing. It’s a big question, and one which will continue to be debated.
A crucial part of the conversation is the so-called “Boise Decision”, a Supreme Court ruling that upheld a previous ruling that cities cannot enforce “anti-camping ordinances” unless they have adequate shelter beds available for the homeless. In short, public land can be used by the public, even if they are staying there for long periods of time. What this means, practically, is that homeless individuals cannot be forced to leave public space unless they are being provided with an alternative. So alternatives either need to be identified or developed.
A few months ago I was asked to be part of an informal group giving input on just such a proposed alternative. In this proposal the City of Redlands would create a suitable shelter facility and a non-profit would be contracted to run the facility. A lot of details are yet to be worked out, especially on the operational side of things, but the “proof of concept” was presented to the City Council on July 6th and the council voted unanimously to ask “staff to begin working on a homeless transitional housing plan which will be brought back in September.” The Redlands Daily Facts covered the story here: https://www.redlandsdailyfacts.com/2021/07/12/are-tiny-homes-in-redlands-a-way-to-address-homelessness/
I was happy for the opportunity to use the Public Comment time to offer some support to the Mayor’s willingness to start moving something forward, even if the basic proposal is, as of yet, incomplete. Here is what I shared,
"First, thank you for allowing the opportunity for comment on this proposal. My name is Rev. Dr. Raymond Morehouse. I was born and raised in Redlands, I have a PhD from the University of St Andrews, I’m an ordained minister, and for nearly five years I have served the homeless of our community as a Christian pastor and chaplain. In that time I have gotten to know hundreds of individuals experiencing homelessness, many of whom have become dear friends.
I’m encouraged by this proposal. It is an important and admirable first step. That being said, a first step cannot be the only step. The proposed facility can be built, surely, but how will it be run? You may be aware of the eye-popping costs of similar projects in LA, San Francisco, and Riverside. Developers in LA use a $60 per unit per diem as a boilerplate cost. The 85-bed shelter run by Path of Life in Riverside has an annual budget of 2.4 million. This is due to operational costs, and so operational questions must be come early and often, as this will determine the whole scope and budget of the project. We must therefore ask, “What kind of facility do we want? Need? Will such a facility make it easier to stop being homeless? Or will it simply make homelessness a little easier to live with, for us and ‘them’?”
So as it considers this admirable proposal, I want to encourage the City to also consider its support for services that make it easier to stop being home-less, recognizing that these will always require more than mere transactional, material aid, even if that aid is the provision of shelter. Some may disagree with me, but I do not believe it is the city’s domain or responsibility to provide such additional services, but the City can do a great deal of good by aiding and facilitating such work, by supporting, on its side, the organization and construction of new, creative housing solutions that give people a true home, and which walk with them out of their home-lessness. This could be done, for instance, by offering credits or waivers for qualifying projects, and speeding their journey through the appropriate city offices. We need to foster the growth of networks of community, family, that can walk alongside of individuals no matter what their circumstances, and here the City can be a great ally of those in need."
This isn’t a transcript because unfortunately I got off script and ran out of time! (If you want to watch the entire proceeding you can find it here: http://redlandsca.swagit.com/play/07072021-968/#0 under “8. Discussion and possible action relating to Transitional Homeless Housing (Mayor Barich)” My comment begins around the 49:30 mark. A long meeting!)
I was very pleased, however, to see that my crucial point was quoted in the local paper, which I have learned a great many people actually read! I only found out about it when an acquaintance at Bricks and Birch showed me a copy!
Going forward, I want to lean very hard into the final part of my encouragement. If we are asking our city to “aid and facilitate” organizations in the way I outlined then I want to be at the forefront of getting such a project under way. As Mary Blake and I have been praying for the future of our ministry we truly believe that this is the direction God is leading us.
Please be praying for us and we continue to pursue God’s will in all of this!
Please be praying that God would open doors for such a project that can be joyfully, courageously, and explicitly celebrating our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! For His glory and for the good of His creation!