Borrego Sun - Since 1949

"Response to Jim Desmond"


Last updated 6/8/2023 at 12:22pm

Response to Jim Desmond, San Diego County District 5 Supervisor, in the May 11 issue of the Borrego Sun, “The Failures of Housing First.”

Jim, it truly pains me to hear you speak so. Rather than present only a partial set of the facts and vilify our most vulnerable, lets go look at the numbers. They are readily available from

Thirty-six percent of the homeless are chronic, meaning they have a disability and have been without shelter for a year or multiple times. Roughly two-thirds of our homeless population is newly homeless. Last year they had a place to live here in California. They are not migrating either to this country or to this state. They are predominately local. The majority of homeless interviewed were adjacent to the neighborhood they were last homed in. So the first step is quit treating these people as “others.” These are our neighbors.

As interviews were with people on the street, cause and effect of drugs and alcohol is hard to establish, but the difficulty of getting into treatment is documented everywhere. Getting treatment while on the street is as difficult as getting a job or services. And may I remind you, we created a tremendous number of meth and fentanyl users when their “legal” source of opioids was cut off?

No Jim, the majority cause of homlessness according to numbers out of Los Angeles is ever increasing rent. Former upright, taxpaying citizens are losing their residences to rent increases, or the inability to find new affordable rentals.

Los Angeles County alone created 82,000 homeless between 2019 and 2020, San Francisco says for every person they have homed last year, three more fell into homelessness. There are at least some of the “missing” workers headlined in the papers. Can’t live in a box and hold any job. And while homing these people is expensive, many immediately go back to paying taxes as they become re-employed.

What is the good news? The housing first efforts have greatly reduced veterans and families living on the street. Fewer children living on the street is a good start. Fewer veterans on the street is also good. Governor Gavin Newsom is continuing to prioritize families first and early assistance before their entire network crumbles.

Now standing up against the tides of rising rents is hard. So many vested interests from homeowners worried about their biggest investment’s value to builders who prefer to build custom homes. This is not going to be easy to fix. A fine start would be reducing foreign investors and private equity buying up properties and driving up existing values. But nothing will fix it like building more high density housing of the less than luxurious standard.

But since the homeless are high in every poll in California as a problem to be solved, Californians think we ought to keep trying. We do not abandon each other.

Emmett Dignan

– Borrego Springs, California

You might be interested in:
Rendered 09/29/2023 22:27