Home Letter To The Editor Letter: Sheltering Contra Costa’s Homeless Population

Letter: Sheltering Contra Costa’s Homeless Population



Like most people living in our county I feel blessed to have a roof above my head and food on my table. I am lucky and I know it. Living here is a blessing many only dream about.

As I walk and see people sleeping rough or in tents or under overpasses I wrestle with a harsh reality that no matter how much money we throw at the issue we are failing, with unhoused neighborhoods moving into our cities, parks and parking lots and problems resulting as the unhoused by choice come into contact with other lucky people like me.

As resentment against the unhoused and their encampments grows and complaints escalate I am left to wonder how a nation as great as ours cannot seem to solve this problem – no matter how much money we throw at it.

After some research I found that one country, Finland, has managed to reverse the trend of homelessness within its borders – currently the ONLY country in the European Union where homelessness is in decline. The Finns have adopted a Housing First approach, where their social services people assign rental housing to their population first, THEN address issues with mental illness or addiction. Since the country started the program they have been able to reduce the number of homeless by 30%. Sleeping outside has been almost completely STOPPED in Helsinki.

With non-governmental organizations picking up some of the slack, providing “emergency” overnight shelter, food and showers to those destined to end up on the streets, the problem has subsided if not been corrected.

I know my letter may lead to naysaying but I would argue that at least one country appears to have found a way and is making it work for them.

We should be as lucky, and as willing to try.


Tom Wright/ Walnut Creek


  1. Tom,

    What you fail to recognize is that there is a percentage of the homeless that prefer living that way. We have one gentlemen in Walnut Creek who is always clean, well dressed, does not use drugs and has no mental illness, he loves living the lifestyle. He is often a connection between the police and the other homeless, just get used to this.

    Firestone 11R

    • I’ve been trying to help the homeless for years! I’ve stopped doing so. Only the elderly and women do I feel for now. The strong younger men are surely able to work but they choose not to.
      Trust me, I’m not just being judgmental…. I’ve gone out of my way to help and have even housed some in my home.
      A big portion are just lazy, and love living a bum lifestyle with the drugs and alcohol. No matter how much we try to help they still choose that. That’s why I no longer help. It’s time we got tougher on them. And stop doting over them. That’s what’s perpetuating their situation. With the shortage of workers and jobs are plenty ,there’s no reason that the strong young men should be catered to.! They can surely dig ditches! Kick them in the butt to get a job! It will be better for all.

  2. lol they are the only ones that are free – no taxes – no vax mandate or lose job- free healthcare – sleeping in beautiful weather – what a joke !
    You’re article makes me laugh – we are so blessed?
    Hardly can afford food mortgage and work constantly – what a life !
    If it wasn’t for my pride I’d be living free like those homeless you feel so sorry for !
    Our taxes alone are insane ! And we have NO say of where or how it’s spent !

  3. Living free. Yeah, that makes me want to abandon my house and sleep under an overpass where I can be free. Free from clean water and a safe place to eat, sleep, and relieve myself of biologic outputs. Freedom from Want to quote a 1940s Norman Rockwell theme. Life under the overpass. Your commentary is not constructive.

  4. Back in the days when people knew how to read and write people could recognize the difference between an article and a letter to the editor.

  5. Nobody is homeless by choice. They’re homeless by circumstances. Some people choose to remain homeless, while others choose to get their life back on track, with the help of churches, etc.

  6. How about creating a disincentive for living on the street, like getting arrested, with an option to go into mental health counseling and/or drug rehabilitation as an alternative? You would need facilities(you can call it housing) for the “homeless” to live in while health care professionals attempt to treat their underlying issues. SF gives shelter, needles, Narcan, food, etc. and looks the other way in terms of law enforcement….and look how that has turned out.

  7. It is a lack of identifying the actual problem. Based on the op’s “unhoused” reference, it shows a lack of understanding. This is a drug addiction problem. The vast majority of the homeless are junkies. Ask the ones who have recovered. Go into the encampments and see it for yourself. Meth and fentanyl are everywhere and getting cheaper and more accessible. Ask yourself, did the population of the United States suddenly have an explosion of mental illness over the past 15 years? Or is it more likely that the most powerful street drugs on planet earth became cheaper at the same time being prosecuted less? Which one makes more sense?

    • Have to agree with the drug observation. Fentanyl is hitting San Francisco very hard and is established in Contra Costa. It will get worse before it gets better.

      • The saddest thing is that SF is one of America’s LAST places to be gripped by fentanyl, but no one there bothered to see what was coming and prepare for it. Blindsided by hubris.

  8. I’m not sure how it works in Finland, but I’m pretty sure that here in the US you cannot “house” someone against their will. I looked at the Finnish Housing First model and it seems to expect a fair degree of self-reliance. I’m genuinely curious if that approach would work here. I suspect, as a few other commenters have observed, that a large percentage of our homeless would choose to stay on the streets.

  9. Finland. Land of lakes and forests, forests and rakes…and the highest per capita consumption of coffee. Now, that’s saying something. Inventers of the sauna and methods of human cryo-initiation in winter lakes. NOT conducive to sleeping al fresco in wintertime. NOT conducive to an overwintering homeless population. Formerly part of Russia. Formerly part of Sweden, and yet not considered part of Scandinavia. Go figure. Invented the sauna and “Scandinavia” won’t claim them as brothers…except when on the doorstep of war with Russia.

  10. Given an either/or choice, a drug addict will choose drugs over housing every time. This problem cannot be solved until our laws change to compel separation of the addict from drugs. To facilitate continued drug use is to be complicit in the eventual death of the addict on the street. It’s a naive compassion that kills.

  11. Two massive problems which unfortunately have become intwined. As sad and outwardly unforgiving as it may sound I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be more expedient to just stop responding to OD cases. All we seem to be doing is prolonging the inevitable.

    • Can’t we just agree that if you get Narcan’d three times, it counts as suicidal behavior and thus warrants institutionalization? What do we do when someone shoots themselves in the head three different times??

  12. Saw the News coverage about ‘Housing First’. It is inspiring something works for Homeless for a change. One way it helps by Homeless gaining self respect from ownership. They begin to take care of their stuff and themselves.
    Big complaint I have with US way of Government Homeless programs. Billions funneled into Gov homeless programs, spending $50k-$100k to house one Homeless. Give those billions to Private Charities to run Homeless programs. Their more involved, knowledgeable, successful and cost effective. Salvation Army could straighten out so many Drug Addicts with that kind of money.

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