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Smith: Closing Mary's Kitchen Solves Nothing

As a 35-year resident of Costa Mesa and the former chairman of the Costa Mesa Homeless Task Force, I am compelled to offer a few thoughts on attempts to close Mary’s Kitchen in Orange.

My appointment to the Task Force was by unanimous vote of the city council. Politically, I am registered as “No Party Preference” (aka Independent), a change I made over 20 years ago.

“During my time on the Task Force, I met with officials from several cities in Southern California and spoke to others by phone. I conducted extensive online research – all at my own expense – and came to the following conclusions, which can help guide any city in their homeless management process:”

The Status Quo

First, homeless population management in America is now part of the status quo. It is a fixed department in the bureaucracies of most cities and is run by people who have little or no interest in effectively reducing the homeless population: Solve the problem and these folks are out of jobs. OBTW, sticking people in shelters does not reduce homelessness, it merely gets the homeless off the street and out of the sight of voters.

Second, the homeless population is incorrectly perceived as a significant and persistent criminal element in each city. This is false. The official orange account regarding the closure stated that crime in the area had increased. The statement, however, failed to include any context, that is, it did not state how much it had risen and whether overall crime in the city has also risen. This is critical to making any decision regarding homeless management.

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