By Gary Featherstone

I’m going to cut right through the bullshit. In my opinion, placing the unhoused in motel rooms is a good idea, if the city plans on doing what is necessary. Let me tell you what’s necessary.

All this is supposed to lead to permanent housing. The first thing society must understand is that 75% of the unhoused in Venice suffer from a substance addiction. Out of the 75%, 35% of those suffer from some form of mental illness. You cannot place either one in an apartment suffering from either of these illnesses.

What the city has done is give the unhoused a place to live while they continue their drug use. The problem is not being addressed. The city must make an effort to provide these individuals with drug treatment, and mental health evaluations. How can we feel comfortable with placing drug addicts and mentally ill people in apartments? We have to offer these people treatment before we offer them an apartment.

Listen to me. The unhoused, right now, are sitting around in motels doing nothing. These motels should be equipped with Professional Drug Programs, and Mental Health Doctors. Don’t tell me it can’t be done, because I have seen it in action. If you really want help solving this problem, you should come to those who know what they are doing.

My problem is, I think the city and all its supporters are not serious about the problem. Allow me to explain. The Mayor’s intentions are good, but the Mayor can only act on the information she is provided with. After placing the unhoused in motels last year, it was a total failure, with the exception of the motels supervised by St. Josephs, the Adventurer, and the Cadillac Motel.

My main concern is with this bandage approach. After you clean the streets and all the unhoused are in motels, then what? Where do we go from there? A plan should have been established before you went out and confronted the unhoused. I’m looking at the approach to this problem, and it seems as though we’re doing the same thing.

I have been singing this song for two years now, and no one is hearing me. We need to go out and secure locations where we can house the unhoused and, at the same time, provide them with a drug program. We have to try and get them off drugs. Same thing with the mentally ill. They need help also. I’m telling you because it works. I’ve seen it done, and I was part of the team that implemented this program. In our program, we hired a Psychologist to evaluate the ones who were displaying bizarre behavior. We were fortunate because the doctor was able to treat most of the problems with medication.

In my opinion, an apartment should be earned. Give them a goal to strive for. For example, the drug addict must complete a program before he or she is given an apartment. We cannot allow someone who is addicted to drugs to occupy an apartment.

Most importantly, the drug addict was given an opportunity to clean themselves up. This is what is important. They were given the opportunity. You see, I’m a firm believer in second chances. However, we cannot continue to utilize our time with a perso that does not want to get clean. Same thing with those who are offered help and they refuse, those people fall up under the rules and regulations which are in place to deal with this type of behavior. We cannot spend unnecessary time trying to help someone who doesn’t want help.

If you are interested in learning how to implement a drug program within any facility, there is a man that specializes in this. I am going to give you the benefit of any doubt. But I will know if the city’s efforts are for real. It’s easy to figure out. When I see the unhoused return to the streets, that’s a signal that things are not going right.

Mayor, you are surrounded by people who have degrees from school, but absolutely no street knowledge. That’s a problem. This is the problem at the Bridge House. This is why there are so many overdoses In my opinion, there should be mandatory drug testing. I went into this before about users being in the same facility with those who are clean. It does not mix. This is one of the first things they teach you.

In closing, I certainly hope you will pick my brain and utilize the knowledge I’m sharing with you. There is no room for failure, especially on your watch. You will be held to a higher standard, and be blamed for every failure, even though this mess is not of your making. I want you to know that I will be observing the progress that is made. Thank you for reading my letter.
Garry Featherstone – Homeless Advocate

Categories: Drugs, Homeless/RVs, Housing