• Mr. Steven J. Muehler

Steve Muehler's Plan to Truly Address Homelessness

Updated: Apr 23


California has only 12 percent of the nation’s population, but 20 percent of its homeless, 36 percent of the nation’s chronic homeless and 34 percent of all welfare recipients.


Though there are many reasons individuals (and families) become homeless, we have to first start to address this problem by addressing the members of the homeless population that are the easiest ones to get from the streets to being a productive member of society. And this group is the "Able Bodies" population of the Homeless.


Under my administration, I will develop work programs for the Able Bodies of the Homeless population. This program will be taxpayer funded, and will provide "basic life needs and shelter" to the homeless with a requirement for all able-bodied homeless to fulfill some type of public works job.

Most able-bodied homeless need to be transitioned into manual labor jobs — cleaning, gardening, construction, and public works. There are eight Northern California cities operating a “Downtown Streets Team” with homeless people working to keep their cities clean, where the workers then receive vouchers for clothing, food, shelter and transportation passes. Under my administration, I will require public officials to replicate this much needed program, which will put many of our homeless on a pathway to being self-sufficient, clear our streets of the homeless, clean our streets, and lead to more people will visiting our downtowns.


As part of this program, there will be computer skills training, resume building, and employment specialists / recruiters working to get these "able bodies" back into traditional society.


Along with the Downtown Street Team, my administration will increase the services of what was "Project Homeless Connect".

Ask any homeless person why they are living on the street, and one theme will inevitably emerge: they were unable to navigate the maze of programs and procedures intended to help. The same bureaucracy that frustrates all of us can utterly stymie those of us with mental handicaps or drug addled brains.


In the fall of 2004, a group of homeless advocates in San Francisco tried an experiment. They rented a local convention hall, persuaded nearly every social service provider in their city to set up a table, and opened what amounted to a trade fair for homeless people. In addition to information about every short- and long-term housing program available in the city, Project Homeless Connect provided clothing, shoes, free phone calls, counselling, medical treatment, dental care, eye exams and glasses, benefits information, government identification cards, and more. There was live music, free food, and, yes, even secure valet parking for shopping carts, so that clients could wander the aisles without fear of having their few possessions stolen.


Project Homeless Connect was so successful in enrolling new clients into existing social service programs, that San Francisco now convenes the event six times each year. Homeless participants report that they feel respected and safe at the event.


With our Able Bodies addressed, it will be necessary to address the Addicts of our Homeless Population with Long-Term Substance Abuse Programs.


More than half of the individuals contacted during the homeless census reported they were addicted to drugs or alcohol. Those who work with the homeless figure that nearly all of the hardest-to-house individuals are long-term drug users.


Most of these addicts have tried to clean up numerous times. They check into detoxification clinics for a week or so, then transfer to one of a number of 28-day treatment programs. But the majority of homeless addicts have used drugs on a daily basis for more than a decade. Most find that four to six weeks of forced abstinence is not sufficient to overcome decades-long habits. As a sad consequence, the vast majority of formerly homeless individuals return to using within a year of completing a 28-day treatment. Some estimates calculate the relapse rate as higher than 90 per cent.


Thus many of the hardest-to-house individuals live lives like revolving doors: detox, treatment, a short stint in welfare housing, a longer stint on the street, then back to detox. It's not uncommon to find addicts who have repeated this cycle more than a dozen times.


What these addicts need is REAL TIME to recover, and a supportive environment in which to rebuild their lives. So-called "recovery houses" differ from treatment centers in that in lieu of medical staff and treatment, they offer simple group counselling and regular participation in 12-step programs. Because recovery houses are much less expensive to operate than treatment centers, addicts can stay for a year or more while slowly rebuilding their lives. The best-run recovery centers report that up to 90 per cent of the clients who complete their programs are still clean a year later.


Under my Administration, we will increase funding for these Recovery Houses, and to avoid fraud, mismanagement, mis-treatment and waste, a strict licensing and review program will need to be implemented and administered.


This program will also reward long-term addicts who remain in recovery and continue to test clean, and will enable hundreds of homeless addicts to rebuild their lives from within the safe confines of recovery houses -- rather than tossing them back out to fend for themselves after a few weeks of treatment.


With the Able Bodies at Work, and with Long-Term Substance Abuse Programs Operating, we will have to Address the most complex portion of the Homeless Population, the Mentally Ill.


Throughout the United States, there is a critical shortage of state psychiatric beds. This shortage forces mentally ill patients with severe symptoms to be held in emergency rooms, hospitals, and jails while they wait for a bed—sometimes for weeks.


For some cities, cuts in funding for community-run psychiatry centers, housing programs, and social workers has caused jails and prisons to take up the responsibility of caring for people with mental illnesses.


However, individuals suffering from mental illness do not belong behind bars.


As part of my Administration, we will work to provide funding for Federal or State Run Hospitals to treat the Mentally Ill Homeless that have no other resources. Under my "Social Guaranteed Income" program, the funds to be received by one of these individuals will be used for their treatment in the State / Federal Hospital, and any additional treatment will be paid by Federal or State programs.


Finally, with our Able Bodies at Work, the Addicted in Long-Term Rehabilitation, and programs for the Mentally Ill, we will have to work with Law Enforcement to clear the streets of those who are just not going to comply with the new rules.


With my Social Guaranteed Income Program and the Homeless Programs mentioned above, we will have a zero tolerance policy for the homeless.


In all cities, local police will have the tools needed to offer solutions to the addicted and mentally ill homeless they encounter; they will be permitted to disperse or arrest individuals who do not comply with these new standards.


Again, this is just an opinion with broadstrokes, and there would need to be people more educated than me to define the finer points, and what the additional cost (or savings) this program would have when compared to the current programs.


Steve Muehler is the Founder & Managing Member of the Private Placement Markets:

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