|Yes, the Center Is Not a Threat to Kids’ Safety
Editor’s Note –
On April 1, the Santa Barbara Homeless Day Center and Winter Shelter will temporarily relocate to Ortega Street across from the Santa Barbara Community Academy elementary school while a second story is built onto the original shelter facility. The city OK’d the move and signed over the Ortega Street lease without seeking public opinion on the choice of location. The PTA at Santa Barbara Community Academy is now voicing its displeasure at the city’s failure to consult the school and cites concern for the safety of the schoolchildren. The city claims the relocation is the best way to serve the homeless.
Rad Sechrist / Daily Nexus
|No, Too Many Homeless Are Mentally Unstable
| So the temporary homeless shelter plans to locate itself across the street from an elementary school. No doubt parents are envisioning a gangly group of criminal transients camping across the fence from their children’s classrooms.
According to the Santa Barbara Transition House, the average age of a homeless person in Santa Barbara is 9-years-old. Nine. Even if the Academy PTA’s opinion remains undivided, children will continue to fall on both sides of the fence – literally. The fastest growing homeless population in Santa Barbara is made up of families. Seventy percent of families served by the Transition House shelter in Santa Barbara are single parent families which points to the strong link between homelessness and domestic violence.
According to a 1990 Ford Foundation study, 50 percent of homeless women and children were fleeing domestic abuse and the U.S. Conference of Mayors cites domestic violence as the leading cause of homelessness in 46 percent of cities across the country.
The most depressing aspect of these figures is the fact that they are growing all the time. Keep in mind that the entire reason the Homeless Day Center is relocating temporarily is so the original premises can be expanded.
Allowing the shelter a temporary home on Ortega Street is not jeopardizing children. It is providing a home for them. The privilege of the wealthy shouldn’t come at the expense of the poor.
The PTA at the Santa Barbara Community Academy claims that the shelter will expose their children to unruly and undesirable behavior and increase the amount of traffic around the school. Perhaps they should be reminded that the Ortega Street site formerly belonged to a youth hostel full of grubby-looking backpackers and travelling students.
If the freshmen dorms can be used as an example, these young students’ behavior was probably less than exemplary. Statistically, young hostel guests may not have been the best role models either. According to figures compiled by Probe Ministries, almost two-thirds of American students try elicit drugs before they finish high school. The 1993 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse reports that the highest incidence of cocaine addiction also occurs in youth ages 18 to 25.
Parents fearing for their children’s safety may voice concerns about the number of mentally ill homeless people, which is estimated at 20 percent. However, the National Mental Health Association says that 54 million Americans suffer from mental illness in any given year. That’s 19 percent of the national population. Not exactly a whole hell of a lot of difference – and children are exposed to most of these people without the benefit of the regular police patrols found at the shelter.
Just because parents and their children don’t have to see the problem of homelessness on a daily basis does not mean it is going to go away – particularly in high rent districts like Santa Barbara where such rates never fluctuate drastically.
Early exposure to the problems of the homeless community will not cause safety issues for the children of the Community Academy. If anything it will provide a valuable lesson for them. Parents who shelter their children from the problems of society are simply making it more likely that their children will be unable to deal with the harsh light of reality when it finally strikes them – and therein lies the real problem.
Josh Braun is the Daily Nexus science editor.
| The issue at hand has been twisted and altered to a point at which it is hardly recognizable. The parents at Santa Barbara Community Academy are not concerned with exposing their children to economic downturn, they are concerned with their children’s safety.
The children at Santa Barbara Community Academy range in age from 5 to 11-years-old. These are the children of our community and they will be exposed to a world of uncertainties come April 1. There is no reason why any risks should be taken that could possibly harm the health and welfare of these youth.
The homeless community in Santa Barbara, similar to homeless communities in other cities, is made up of men, women, and children with substance abuse problems, mental illnesses and exposure to domestic violence.
The Association of Gospel Rescue Missions estimates the number of homeless that have some form of drug or alcohol problem to be between 65 and 80 percent. Relocating a large number of homeless people across the street from a school that serves 200 small children is bound to expose these children to drugs and alcohol as well as their effects. This exposure is premature for a small child, not to mention unsafe.
In addition, the National Coalition for the Homeless approximates that 20 to 25 percent of homeless people have “severe and persistent mental illness.” They continue to state that mental illness prevents people from the “normal” and everyday tasks of life. This includes self-care, household management and interpersonal relationships. Homeless people also lack contact with family and friends. Therefore their exposure to small children is minimal.
Relocating the homeless and positioning them in close proximity to the city’s youth takes them out of their comfortable environment and puts them near children and families that they are not accustomed to encountering on a daily basis. How would anyone know how the mentally ill homeless community would react to seeing children and families regularly? The uncertainty of mental illness is a major concern in its proximity to small children. As it should be.
As domestic violence continues to be an ever-present problem, a number of women and children flee to local shelters as a place of refuge from their violent spouses. The incidents that may arise from relationships with domestic violence is the last thing that small children need to see. There is enough violence in the news and on TV without exposing the children to this type of situation first-hand.
Peter Marin, a founder of the homeless advocacy group the Committee for Social Justice (“Shelter Site Sparks Parents’ Concern,” Daily Nexus, Feb. 19) stated that people are nervous about the shelter’s location but the homeless have a right to public services. Both of these statements are true, people are nervous and the homeless do have a right to these services. However, considering their situations and lifestyles, they should not be living in an area with such high risk for problems.
There is no form of control on what will happen or what the children will be exposed to. The discomfort of the community is hardly worth all the trouble. There are other places in Santa Barbara that could work as a temporary facility for the homeless that will not disrupt the education of elementary school students.
It’s unnecessary and absurd to make parents and teachers afraid to send children outside to play.
Stephanie McCoy is a junior business economics major.
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