Dr. Jennifer Tran for Congress: Sensible Solutions

Housing and Homelessness

The East Bay is one of the most impacted areas in the whole country by the housing crisis. It’s time for federal solutions to drive real change.

Homelessness is happening in every major city across the nation. It’s a systemic issue that can’t be solved by local politics. It’s time for a federal solution.

Oakland and Berkeley have disastrous levels of unhoused citizens – some of the highest rates in the United States. But it’s not unique to us.

Politicians have been lying to us about the “homelessness problem” for forty years. It’s time to stop accepting the myth that it’s unsolvable. Many nations have virtually eliminated the problem. Those nations – like Japan, Grenada, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Barbados, Slovenia and Iceland – span across a wide economic spectrum. What these nations have in common is that they share the necessary political will to prevent the loss of housing for anyone. It’s time to show our politicians that we Americans DO have the political will. It’s time to recognize that food, water, shelter, and health are all human rights. Your vote in this election can end homelessness and put a roof over every unhoused person in this country. The solutions are real and they are within our reach.

To understand the problem and find solutions, we need to first understand the root causes.

In order to maintain housing, an individual needs the basic life function skills to keep a job, track and pay bills. Individuals can lose those functions and thus risk becoming unhoused for one of three reasons:

  • 1. They suffer from mental illness.
  • 2. They suffer from drug addiction.
  • 3. Their skills, training and corresponding financial earnings do not meet the necessary threshold to keep up with the cost of living in their local community.

Dr Tran’s Plan for Eradicating Homelessness

1. Reopen state-run mental health hospitals

2. Invest in state-run drug addiction treatment hospitals

3. Expand housing voucher programs that prevent at-risk individuals from losing housing attached to mandatory job training and job placement

4. Establish Care Courts in every city where unhoused citizens are taken to humanely assess needs before placement

Reopen state-run mental health hospitals

First, we need to rebuild and reopen our state mental health facilities. With a series of laws in
the 1980’s that redefined the qualifications for state-provided mental healthcare, Ronald
Reagan effectively shuttered over 90% of the country’s facilities for housing and treating our
mentally ill populations. Unsurprisingly, the streets became the new asylums for these
vulnerable individuals. Before long, prisons started reporting a massive spike in the incidence of mental illness of incarcerated populations. Depending on who you ask today, anywhere from 30-50% of our incarcerated populations are suffering from severe mental illness. Reinvesting in mental health facilities and workforce will provide these vulnerable citizens from losing the roof over their head. It will humanely assist them with the food, medications, treatment, and job training that will be necessary for if they ever have a chance to become productive members of our society. These same mentally ill citizens are flooding our hospital emergency rooms, costing tax payers as much as $4k per night to house them. Imprisoning these individuals costs tax payers an average of $85k per year. We can reopen state mental health hospitals and run them economically. The federal government can provide funding.

Invest in state-run drug addiction treatment hospitals

In a similar way, we must invest substantially in state-run drug addiction treatment facilities. The war on drugs has failed. The only way to humanely solve the drug epidemic is to offer effective treatment. Drug addiction is its own unique form of mental health crisis. It’s time to address it as a disease, not a criminal act. Addicts are also vulnerable citizens whose humanity we must not ignore. Over 65% of incarcerated adults have an active substance abuse disorder. Many of the very same mentally ill patients, when untreated for their conditions, turned to self- medicating with any available drugs they could find on the streets. Instead of tax payers paying $85k per year to house them inhumanely in prisons, it’s time to treat these suffering souls humanely. We can build drug addiction treatment facilities to meet their needs. The federal government can provide funding.

Expand housing voucher programs that prevent at-risk individuals from losing housing attached to mandatory job training and job placement

The economic conditions that often lead to a loss of housing can also be solved. The University of California study showed that almost 90% of individuals who lost housing for economic reasons only needed less than a thousand dollars to prevent it. This problem can be solved with a voucher program available to all low-income individuals. The voucher program could even be a no interest loan program. It could even be attached to a job training and placement requirement. Nobody wants to lose their housing because they can’t pay the bills. Of the three core causes of homelessness, these economic solutions will be the least expensive. The federal government can provide funding.

Establish Care Courts in every city where unhoused citizens are taken to humanely assess needs before placement

In order to enact the solutions for the mentally ill and drug addicted populations, we will need to address the question of civil rights. The ACLU has argued that the government violates a citizen’s habeas corpus civil rights against unjust detention when the police remove an unhoused citizen from the streets. This effectively installs homelessness as a civil right. But we need to ask deeper questions about the rights of these vulnerable individuals. Is their right to be homelessness more important than their right to shelter, food, water, and health? And what about the rights of citizens and businesses to live in a safe city without the blight of unhoused people suffering in tents and makeshift shelters around every corner? It’s time to recognize that the application of civil rights to be unhoused is in fact a violation of these same individuals’ rights to basic needs. It’s time to codify these rights to basic needs into federal law. We deserve modern American cities, free from third world poverty, tent cities and scattered filth.

The State of California has already recognized the necessity for a new type of Care Court to assess these individuals needs and get them the help they deserve. But that solution is not nearly sufficient without reinvesting in mental health and drug treatment facilities to house them once their needs are determined. The federal government can provide funding. We can end homelessness in less than two years as an entire nation. It’s time.

In Dr. Tran’s first 100 days in office, she will introduce legislation to Congress called the Modern Cities Act.

This legislation will encode these solutions to
homelessness listed above into federal law to create the future we all deserve.

How has Dr. Tran served here before?

  • Local Leadership: President of Oakland Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce
    In this role, I’ve worked with many businesses, both renters and landlords, and understand the challenges that each are facing with the homelessness epidemic
  • Community Leadership
    I have worked to forge private/public collaborations to relocate unhoused communities into temporary housing
  • Local Advocacy
    I’ve engaged with and collaborated with developers, realtors, and community development not-for-profits organizations, to create innovative solutions to provide wrap-around services for unhoused communities

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