Of all the cultural phenomenons of the last 20 years, one of the most perplexing and persistent problems is that of the homeless.
And yet, at a recent meeting of the Stanton City Council, Mayor David Shawver proclaimed that “Stanton has eliminated its homelessness problem.”
Through a partnership between the Illumination Foundation and Stanton, more than 242 families in the city have been placed into housing, 89 adults given help in finding work and 87 people have received medical care including mental health and addictions services.
“The City of Stanton came to us about 18 months ago,” said Katie Rootlieb, communications director for Illumination. “There were a lot of homeless congregating in parks and other public spaces.”
In response, the Foundation opened an office in Stanton and has worked to educate, house and treat the homeless and what’s called “the unstably-housed community.”
The latter term refers to people who might move from a motel to a car to a park as money gets tighter.
“A typical example would be a family that lives in a motel room for three weeks until they run out of money,” said Rootlieb.
In combination with the Foundation, Stanton has “developed programs and tools such as city ordinances to assist a population that is in need of assistance,” said Stanton City Manager James Box. “I am very proud to say this proactive approach is working.”
One related effect of curbing homeless may be a reduction in crime in Stanton of 4 percent since the partnership.
Stanton’s progress may be copied by other cities, as the Foundation, with headquarters in Irvine, is planning on opening new offices.
Statistics on homelessness are hard to compile, according to Rootlieb. The most reliable figures are from public school systems, she said.
According to a list posted by the Orange County Department of Education, the number of “unstably-housed” school age children in the Garden Grove Unified School District (which includes most of Garden Grove and parts of several other cities) was 2,123 as of 2011.
In the Westminster School District the figure is 1,731; in the Magnolia School District, which serves part of Stanton, the number is 1,438.
But there is lmore ight, one might even say, Illumination, at the tunnel.
“We’re seeing fewer of the newly homeless,” said Rootlieb. Those are working and middle class families unused to losing their housing.
With an improving economy and programs like the one in Stanton, the light may be getting brighter all the time.