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The real solution to homelessness is the CARE Court proposal: Acquanetta Warren

The real solution to homelessness is the CARE Court proposal: Acquanetta Warren

California’s homelessness and mental health crisis is out of control and the people want our state legislators to take immediate action.

Cities are on the front lines of this issue with tents and encampments lining our sidewalks, parks and public spaces. Aggressive action must be taken now.

Tiny home encampments and temporary shelters have not been enough to offer those experiencing homelessness a path toward stable housing.  This epidemic is about more than a lack of affordable housing and it’s time we acknowledge that publicly and start addressing all of the challenges systematically.

It is inhumane to leave struggling individuals with mental health or substance abuse disorders in the streets without the treatment and care they desperately need. Under the Governor’s Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Court proposal, our state can provide support to thousands of Californians with untreated schizophrenia, psychotic disorders, and substance use challenges that often experience homelessness, incarceration, institutionalization or premature death. Through a community-driven approach, CARE Court protects people’s rights while helping them get access to housing, treatment, and care.

As the fifth largest economy in the world, California can no longer allow people with mental health issues to be homeless with no treatment or housing. I now label this epidemic “mental health homelessness”.  Mental health has plagued the homeless population and their families especially in black and brown communities. It is time to transform a broken system and Fontana is ready to take the lead and once again set the example for other cities to follow.

With the help of the American Rescue Plan and Congressional funding, the City of Fontana is working to establish the region’s first Homeless Prevention, Resource, and Care Center that will address homelessness at the individual level. In addition, the City of Fontana has formed a special team of first responders to address this issue head on. The Community Outreach and Support Team (C.O.A.S.T.) is a multi-disciplinary team of professionals trained to address and respond to those experiencing a mental health episode in hopes of averting a crisis event that historically might have led to incarceration. This team is comprised of a Fontana police officer, a social worker with the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, and a firefighter from the San Bernardino County Fire Department with his support dog “Scout”.

COAST responds to calls for service with a mission that includes building rapport with the public and taking the burden off other city resources that may not have been equipped to deal with a mental health crisis.  The COAST team also provides meaningful after care and support services including filling prescriptions, working with the District Attorney’s Office to dismiss warrants for petty offenses which pose barriers to housing and employment, access to trained counselors, and long-term drug and alcohol treatment. With CARE Court, we will now have more tools to connect a homeless person struggling with untreated mental illness get the care they deserve.

Right now, our response to homelessness is inconsistent.  This is unacceptable. We can and must do better. If we are going to solve this issue, everyone must do their part.  As Mayor of Fontana, I am proud to represent a city with the mission statement “We serve to enrich the lives of all people by embracing opportunity”. That is why I am strongly urging our state legislators to take immediate action and vote in favor of  SB 1338 CARE Court Act.

Please visit https://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov to contact your legislators today and ask them to vote in support of SB 1338 CARE Court Act.

For more information on CARE Court, visit https://www.chhs.ca.gov/care-court/.

Acquanetta Warren is the mayor of Fontana.  

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