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Civic Innovator Proposes Solution to Homelessness in U.S. Cities

IAED, USA – According to the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report for 2023, there are 143,000 chronically homeless people in the United States – an increase of nearly 30% from 2020. The majority are  sleeping in tents, on streets, in cars, in public parks or other places not meant for human habitation.  As downtown areas of major cities become filled with encampments and drug trafficking, businesses close down, buildings become vacant,  planned developments are terminated and tourism plummets. Cities are dying and political leaders seem to offer only band-aid solutions while spending millions of dollars. 


The US International Association for Peace and Economic Development hosted a webinar on January 16, 2024, titled “An Answer to America’s Homeless Crisis,” featuring artist and civic activist George Mullen, the volunteer director of the proposed Sunbreak Ranch Homeless Triage Center in San Diego, California.  Mr. Mullen noted that a civilized society cannot allow what is happening. Statistics in San Diego show a 50% year-over-year increase in the total number of unsheltered homeless people and a 250% increase in the number of homeless deaths on the streets of San Diego, nearly 600 in the past year.


Mr. Mullen outlined the unique features of Sunbreak Ranch that offer a solution to this humanitarian and economic catastrophe. Of course it cannot solve the causes of homelessness; it is designed rather to end street homelessness by providing a place where homeless persons can go. 


Sunbreak would be much like the temporary portable refugee centers run by the United Nations. As a “triage” center, it would temporarily house people, identify their needs, and move them to more permanent housing or treatment centers. It would be fully staffed, with services including job training and an employment dashboard for those capable and wanting to re-enter the workforce. It would provide everyone in need with a clean, healthy, safe and secure place and bed. Residents could come and go as they please. 


This is a compassionate approach that would allow the city to return to enforcing existing laws against unsafe, unhealthy behaviors and sleeping in public spaces. As George Mullen says: “We want to help our homeless brothers and sisters and assist them on their path to better lives. We have a moral obligation to help the homeless, but we are not obligated to cede our downtowns, our tourist attractions, and residential neighborhoods to the unsafe conditions of homeless encampments, and exposure to the spread of infectious diseases.”


Sunbreak is not yet operational – political leadership has yet to agree on the site – but detailed plans are in place, and it has the backing of prominent citizens in San Diego. It will have a maximum site occupancy of 5,000 people. It will provide a full range of social services, medical and mental healthcare, meals, laundry, and a general store; portable bathrooms and showers, on-site 24/7 security, playgrounds, a chapel, and a community garden, among other features.  There will be a sheltered bed for everyone, as well as space for those with RV’s or who prefer to pitch their own tent. There will even be a dog park!


The commentator on this program was Dr. William Eimicke, professor of the practice of international affairs at Columbia University in New York, who has extensive experience in public/private partnerships.  He expressed optimism at the feasibility of the project and the ability to gain financial support. “Once the good aim is there and good plans, the money will come; volunteers will come,” he said. He noted that the concept appears solid, but the details are complex. Recognizing that the triage concept is just the first step in returning people to productive life, Dr. Eimicke described the project as well thought out, saying it not only can be done, but should be done.


This was a very well received program with several persons making comments and asking questions after the formal program and recording ended. 


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By Alan Jesson, North American Coordinator, IAED
January 16, 2024


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