By Darrell Steinberg
Special to CALmatters
It’s an amazing story, really. A testament to the priorities – and the hearts — of California voters.
Earlier this month, more than 6.5 million people voted in favor of Proposition 2, the initiative that will generate billions of dollars to build supportive housing, linked to services and treatment, for people living with a serious mental illness who are homeless or at risk of chronic homelessness.
Proposition 2 not only passed. It drew more votes than any proposition on the statewide ballot.
The outcome underscores the extent to which people across this state recognize homelessness as a crisis that is tearing at the fabric of our communities. How many times have you walked by someone huddled in a doorway, disheveled and disoriented, and wondered, “What can one person do?”
About a third of the people subsisting on our streets and alleys live with untreated mental illness. Without stable housing, the challenges of getting them into effective treatment and recovery are monumental and sometimes impossible. Instead, our police and firefighters have become the first and last resort for responding to people in psychiatric crisis.
Proposition 2 offers a real, evidence-based solution: stable housing partnered with wraparound services.
And voters’ overwhelming support for its passage marks a call to arms: We need to attack homelessness–and the untreated mental illness that so often lands people on the streets—as the public health crisis that it is.
We need to move fast, as we do when responding to other disasters of monstrous proportion. We need to get this money out and ensure our cities and counties work collaboratively to get the housing built, and to pair those homes with the services that make this treatment model successful.
So what happens now?