mercoledì 4 gennaio 2017

California Today:a New mayor takes on homelessness

«Il problema dei senzatetto si ripresenta ogni anno ai primi freddi, e sempre più acuto. Che occorrano misure strutturali e, in particolare, che occorra dare alloggio non solo temporaneo ai sentatetto lo pensa anche un amministratore di una grande città americana». The NewWorkTimes online, 3 gennaio 2017 (m.c.g.)


Con l’eccezione di Finlandia, Pesi Bassi e Danimarca, in tutte le grandi città europee il numero dei senzatetto è in continuo aumento. E non si tratta solo di migranti, spesso giovani e istruiti, ma anche di cittadini che ‘non ce l’hanno fatta’: per lo più maschi e adulti. Ovviamente, le misure emergenziali, che sono comunque costose, non incidono sulle cause strutturali. E infatti, il problema dei senzatetto si ripresenta ogni anno ai primi freddi, e sempre più acuto.

A Milano, “campionessa” italiana di solidarietà grazie ai suoi 2.700 posti letto attualmente disponibili per i mesi più freddi nei dormitori e alla partecipazione generosa dei cittadini (quest’anno in pochi giorni sono stati raccolti 28.000 sacchi a pelo, coperte e giacconi), sono morti di freddo in rapida sequenza due emigrati che passavano le notti all’aperto sulle panchine.

Che occorrano misure strutturali e, in particolare, che occorra dare alloggio non solo temporaneo ai sentatetto lo pensa anche un amministratore di una grande città americana. E’ la proposta avanzata dal neo-sindaco di Sacramento, la capitale della California: una proposta ‘rivoluzionaria’ che già evidenzia lo iato incolmabile che si aprirà fra le iniziative degli Stati e delle amministrazioni locali democratiche, e le minacce di deportazione annunciate dal nuovo Presidente degli USA.

Darrel Steinberg, da sempre impegnato come Senatore dello Stato della California sui temi del disagio psichico e della ‘homelessness’, intende mettere a disposizione dei senzatetto (attualmente 2.600) 1.500 unità abitative entro la primavera. Un progetto che dovrebbe accompagnarsi a un attento monitoraggio e aiuto, medico, psicologico ed economico; ma soprattutto, a una pedagogia argomentativa capace di contrastare le prevedibili reazioni NIMBY della popolazione locale. (m.c.g.)


Homelessness has seemed to defy solution in many California cities.
Ambitious plans are crafted, giant sums are spent and still, years later, the problem is entrenched, or even worsened. But in Sacramento, a new mayor is asserting that he could alter the script — and many people are taking him seriously.

The Sacramento Bee has expressed optimism that the city could be better poised than ever to break the cycle of homelessness. Some homeless leaders have too. “We’re extremely hopeful,” said Bob Erlenbusch, executive director of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness.

The reason is the swearing in last month of Mayor Darrell Steinberg, a veteran state lawmaker who has made mental illness and homelessness signature issues of his political career. One of Mr. Steinberg’s first mayoral acts was to expand access to warming centers in Sacramento. On any given night in the county, roughly 2,600 people are homeless.

The move was welcomed by homeless leaders who had lobbied for it for years.
On Monday, Mr. Steinberg said his administration planned to free up at least 1,500 housing units for the homeless by the spring. The City Council and Sacramento County supervisors are scheduled to meet in a joint session this month to discuss the proposal.

Some critics are skeptical, questioning how the costs will be met.
Others have challenged the mayor over his reluctance to embrace a so-called tent city for the homeless — like those created in Seattle — which supporters say would offer a temporary safer alternative to life on the streets and river banks.
«That’s the essential first step» said Mark Merin, a civil rights lawyer who has advocated for the homeless in Sacramento. Without that there’s no foundation on which to build a program.»

We caught up with Mr. Steinberg by phone. These are edited excerpts from the conversation:

Do you think Sacramento could solve the problem of homelessness?
Well I think we need to aim very high. But I also have no illusions. And we talk about a concept called ‘functional zero,’ which means that we ought to have more permanent housing and supportive services than the number of homeless people. And then the goal is to match them up. But no, I’m not talking about trying to absolutely fix it. I think that’s the aspiration. But I think it’s our obligation and our opportunity to make it much better.

 How does your approach differ from what’s been tried before?
We have a lot of tools in place and we also know what works. What works — and I’ve seen it — is assertive outreach by clinically trained outreach workers, case management, single points of entry, supportive services, especially mental health and substance abuse services, and an absolute commitment to increasing the inventory of permanent housing.

 How do you overcome local resistance to adding housing for the homeless?
When the inevitable question of ‘not in my backyard’ arises, I think it’s a different discussion when you say to people: «The status quo is having an impact on your neighborhood and on your neighborhood and city park. It’s having an impact on your business corridors. And it’s better to house people with services than to allow people to live on the street.’
We are so far removed from pinching ourselves and remembering what this is really about, that we tolerate this social condition in 2017 California in America. I mean, it is cold in Sacramento».

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