Ventura’s “safe sleep” program: do the math

July 9, 2009

One of the reasons why I went to school to study journalism is because I suck at math. Though I have great respect for the numerical process, it’s never been my strong suit. I’m one of those people who struggles with calculating the gratuity on a restaurant bill.

Yet it doesn’t take a dummy to figure out that simple ratios can sometimes make all the difference when trying to find the answer to complicated problems.

This week I’m thinking about a pilot program Ventura city officials are looking to adopt that would allow homeless people, who have a car, a safe place to sleep in their vehicles, in designated areas, for designated amounts of time.

It’s not called the “Safe Sleep” program for nothing, designed as a place for the destitute to lay their head, free of an environment of drugs, alcohol or violence.

So why are people in Ventura in such an uproar about it? For one, they doubt the security of the program and wrongly claim, through some self-perceived divine authority, that allowing homeless people to sleep in parking lots across town welcomes criminal behavior.

The same people, especially those with “interests” in the downtown’s retail future, are also worrying that our downtown parking lots will become festering grounds teeming with hundreds of  homeless people, night after night.

There seems to be a belief that if the program passes, the lot on Main and Oak, or the lot on Santa Clara and Palm, for example, will turn into overcrowded homeless campgrounds, where every space is taken, broken glass litters the pavement, drunkenness abounds and public parking for the general public is nil.

People: this is not some football game tailgate party! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that someone has done some poor math.

Take this: there are just over 100,000 people living in the City of Ventura. According to the most recent numbers, we have about 620 homeless people here. The number of homeless people looked at for this program is much, much smaller than that. Try about 15 for the pilot.

That’s the word we’ve gotten from authorities … that number is not even enough to fill up a small corner of the smallest parking lot in Downtown Ventura.

In other words, the pilot program is designed to start small to solve a very big problem.

Considering the fact that the type of homeless person city officials are seeking is the homeless person receptive to service, open to self-improvement, and maybe even embarrassed by the “Homeless” tag, makes the complaining by those opposed to the program seem all the more whiny and self-serving.

It also smacks of knee-jerk thinking, too. Critics haven’t considered that homeless people are people, too, and they sleep the same time when you and I do: the middle of the night. Which means that the program takes place at night, when you’re not parking your car downtown to begin with. Not until the next day, of course, when the lot becomes vacant again.

There hasn’t even been any confirmation that public lots will even be a part of the pilot. But of course, when a bunch of NIMBYheads voice their uninformed concerns, panic ensues over nothing.

If you’re enraged at the safe sleep program, before approaching the city council about it on Monday, do the math first. Truly take a good, critical, unselfish look at how little your life will be impacted by giving up some parking spaces to a group of grateful, homeless people.

Then, tally up the amount of money in your bank account, subtract the total amount, take away your home from the equation, and consider how you’d feel if a program came along to help you get back on your feet again … and out of your car.

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One Response to “Ventura’s “safe sleep” program: do the math”

  1. barbara b Says:

    Logic and Compassion! You Rock! I could not have said it better myself!

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