Broward’s work­ing on so­lu­tions to home­less­ness

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Opinion - By Barry Somer­stein [email protected]

Broward County’s home­less pop­u­la­tion is a di­vi­sive is­sue. Isn’t it il­le­gal, some ask, to camp out on the streets? Shouldn’t there be a law to stop wellmean­ing in­di­vid­u­als and groups from bring­ing food to home­less en­camp­ments, who are un­in­ten­tion­ally mak­ing the prob­lem worse?

There are a cou­ple of fal­la­cies be­hind this kind of think­ing. First, home­less­ness is not a crime. Se­cond, nu­mer­ous stud­ies have shown that pass­ing laws aimed at crim­i­nal­iz­ing the home­less is costly and in­ef­fec­tive.

Not that it hasn’t been tried. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Coali­tion for the Home­less, in re­cent years the lion’s share of at­tempts to leg­is­late home­less­ness out of ex­is­tence have been puni­tive. Usu­ally this ap­proach in­volves pass­ing laws pro­hibit­ing things like sleep­ing, eat­ing or loi­ter­ing in pub­lic spa­ces — un­avoid­able ac­tiv­i­ties for some­one who has no pri­vate space.

The idea is that be­ing tough on the home­less will force them off a life on the streets. But home­less­ness is rarely a life­style choice.

Iron­i­cally, ar­rest­ing vi­o­la­tors of laws tar­get­ing home­less ac­tiv­i­ties turns them into crim­i­nals, sub­ject to jail time and fines they can’t pay — invit­ing re-ar­rests. Crim­i­nal records re­in­force the stub­born myth that peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness are by na­ture dan­ger­ous, though the truth is they’re far more likely to be vic­tims of vi­o­lence than its per­pe­tra­tors. And, of course, hav­ing a po­lice record makes find­ing em­ploy­ment that much more dif­fi­cult.

Hu­mane le­gal mea­sures that aim to help the home­less re­ceive crit­i­cal ser­vices — from shel­ter to food to med­i­cal care — are the only proven meth­ods to erad­i­cat­ing home­less­ness and they re­quire a broad-based com­mu­nity ef­fort.

Merely kick­ing peo­ple out of a home­less en­camp­ment and mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for them to re­turn is not the an­swer. We need to ad­dress the so­cial is­sues at the core. That’s why the Greater Fort Laud­erdale Al­liance, of which I am a mem­ber, has teamed up with United Way of Broward County to spear­head the Broward Busi­ness Coun­cil on Home­less­ness, which will col­lab­o­rate with Broward County, City of Fort Laud­erdale and other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and part­ners to at­tempt to ad­dress the core is­sues and help ame­lio­rate home­less­ness in our com­mu­nity.

Broward County’s Home­less Ini­tia­tive Part­ner­ship and the Home­less Con­tin­uum of Care Board have al­ready been tran­si­tion­ing from a “hous­ing readi­ness” to a “Hous­ing First” model that has been suc­cess­ful in many other com­mu­ni­ties. It’s a hu­mane, com­pre­hen­sive so­lu­tion that at­tempts to take peo­ple out of the vi­cious cy­cle of chronic home­less­ness, ar­rests and/or hos­pi­tal­iza­tions by get­ting them into their own hous­ing — and then ad­dress­ing the men­tal and med­i­cal health care they need. In Or­lando, this ap­proach re­duced the home­less pop­u­la­tion by more than 60 per­cent in just three years. Dur­ing the same pe­riod, the cost of pub­lic ser­vices per home­less per­son dropped from over $31,000 a year to ap­prox­i­mately $10,000 a year.

Not only is it a fi­nan­cially re­spon­si­ble ap­proach for the com­mu­nity, but most im­por­tantly, it’s a hu­mane and so­cially re­spon­si­ble so­lu­tion that pro­tects qual­ity of life for all stake­hold­ers while pre­serv­ing the dig­nity of those in our com­mu­nity ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness.

If you’re a mem­ber of the busi­ness com­mu­nity and want to learn more about the Broward Busi­ness Coun­cil on Home­less­ness, please call 954-462-4850. Or­ga­ni­za­tions wish­ing to as­sist in the ef­forts of the Home­less­ness Col­lab­o­ra­tive in Broward are en­cour­aged to call 954-357-6101, or email

Barry Somer­stein (part­ner, Green­spoon Marder, LLP) is part of the Al­liance/United Way’s Broward Busi­ness Coun­cil on Home­less­ness and has been as­sist­ing with ef­forts led by the county con­ven­ing com­mu­nity stake­hold­ers to ad­dress home­less­ness. Let’s un­der­stand, sup­port and cel­e­brate ag­ing

The U.N. has des­ig­nated Oct. 1 as The In­ter­na­tional Day for Older Per­sons, reaf­firm­ing its com­mit­ment to pro­mot­ing the full and equal en­joy­ment of all hu­man rights and fun­da­men­tal free­doms by older per­sons. In South Flor­ida, nearly one in four peo­ple will be at least 65 years old by 2040. Con­trary to con­ven­tional wis­dom of grow­ing old, only four per­cent of se­niors re­side in skilled nurs­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

Se­niors cur­rently make up five per­cent of the U.S. la­bor force. We are liv­ing longer and our de­mo­graph­ics make South Flor­ida the per­fect set­ting to cre­ate a bet­ter way to un­der­stand, sup­port and cel­e­brate ag­ing.

Pe­ter Kaldes, Esq., pres­i­dent and CEO, South Flor­ida In­sti­tute on Ag­ing, Fort Laud­erdale

Did Ford aim to harm a higher-ranked Judge Ka­vanaugh?

Why did Chris­tine Blasey Ford take so long in com­ing out about as­sault al­le­ga­tions against Brett Ka­vanaugh, and why didn't she say any­thing when he was made a judge in a lower po­si­tion? I'm not say­ing that what she says isn't true, but is it pos­si­ble that she waited un­til it would be more ben­e­fi­cial for her ca­reer?

Marco Cir­rin­cione, Ta­ma­rac

Se­lec­tive am­ne­sia strikes again in Wash­ing­ton

When did Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham drink the Kool-Aid? From calling Pres­i­dent Trump a “jack­ass” and an “id­iot" a few years ago, he’s be­come the pres­i­dent's poo­dle.

Gra­ham called Thurs­day’s Se­nate hear­ing, among other things, "the most un­eth­i­cal sham since I've been in pol­i­tics.” Se­lec­tive am­ne­sia strikes again. No, sen­a­tor, the most de­spi­ca­ble, un­eth­i­cal sham hap­pened two years ago when Se­nate Repub­li­cans, led by Mitch McCon­nell, re­fused to even con­sider Pres­i­dent Obama's nom­i­nee, Mer­rick Gar­land. The 11 Repub­li­can mem­bers of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee then signed a let­ter say­ing they had no in­ten­tion of con­sent­ing to any nom­i­nee from Obama. No pro­ceed­ings of any kind were held on Gar­land's ap­point­ment. It's pay­back time.

Nor­man Berkowitz, Boyn­ton Beach

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