Casa Grande has had a homeless problem for years, something that the city government and various organizations have attempted to deal with. The new CGHELPS Resource Center in Peart Park represents a major, coordinated effort that should be beneficial.
Homelessness is an issue in virtually all cities, and the solution is not tied very much to a lack of housing. Although some people become homeless due to a stretch of bad luck and seek to get back into the mainstream of society, many others basically choose to live on the streets or choose it indirectly due to substance abuse or other bad choices.
United Way and Casa Grande Main Street worked on the issue, and Mayor Craig McFarland and the City Council made it a priority and instituted a task force to address it. Compassion alone is enough to drive that, but residents and business operators often complain about the negative effects of having people live part of the time on their property.
CGHELPS involves the city and its Peart Center, obviously, but also has some other major players, including the nonprofit Community Action Human Resources Agency and United Way of Pinal County, which will be housed at Peart Center also. Churches and other organizations have provided financial and other support.
The idea is to offer resources not only to help sustain the homeless but also to help them move into a better life, including basic medical care, basic education, library programs and referral to social service agencies. Many of the nation’s homeless are damaged by substance abuse. Another factor is that, decades ago, the courts blocked forced mental health treatment in most cases. That seemed like a good idea and is related to personal freedom, but it basically gives people a license to live on the edge.
Some cities have gone way too far in reacting to the homeless. Denver is the latest example, as it is emphasizing a right of access to public places. Meanwhile, many parts of California have done the same thing. This extreme measure clearly reduces the quality of life for average, taxpaying residents.
The approach of CGHELPS is the correct one. It offers compassionate help while also pointing the homeless in a different direction, hoping they will take it.