Gordon, Utah’s former state director of housing and community development, has been credited for being part of a successful decade-long effort to curb chronic homelessness in Utah. Recently unretired, Walker has been tapped by the city to be CEO of its Regional Task Force on the Homeless.
Holding his own at the PBTC meeting, while defending his staunch “housing first” stance on homelessness, Gordon, was asked if he supported a recent petition drive calling upon community churches to end or reign-in homeless feeds. “I find that [homeless] still need to eat. One of the important components of dealing with the homeless involves the faith-based community partnering and helping to organize things.”
Gordon's response at the meeting invited a response from local activists concerned about worsening homelessness blighting the beach community.
“Everyone needs to understand that many of the neighbors feel powerless with what places of worship are doing (homeless feeds),” said PB activist Marcella Teran. “I have met with the different churches and have felt like they have not understood what was going on with the overflow of drug addicts, people hanging out in somebody else's front yards leaving needles, etc.”
Recent past Pacific Beach Planning Group chair Brian Curry agreed.
“Four or five houses of worship that feed the homeless have some residents very concerned,” said Curry, adding, “I think everyone's heart is in the right place. It's a question of helping versus just serving (food). It's a volatile issue. I'm wondering whether feedings should be companioned with some type of (social) service, or any other type of criteria, in residential areas.”
Gordon noted one of the distinguishing characteristics of homelessness is that victims “have significant trust issues with society.” Speaking from experience, he offered an anecdote.
“People were asked if they wanted help three, four, six times and declined. I know where one individual was asked 768 times before they accepted housing. This is long-term relationship building with each of these individuals. Most of them want to be housed. Many of them have forgotten how to be housed.”
Gordon had two other major points to make about homelessness during his presentation. One is that it costs more ultimately to provide them with emergency services than to house them. The other is that there is property out there available to be used for new homeless housing.
“It [housing] doesn't have to be fancy,” Gordon said. “[The city/county] in the process of converting some 11 identified properties into buildable properties. It's very exciting.”
“We cannot lose sight of where we want to go,” said Gordon. pointing out, “We have an emergency hepatitis A outbreak.”
Added Gordon, “My job is to make sure we continue talk about what [homelessness] is. Will it be solved this year? It takes awhile. It does.”
The city's new homeless task force CEO shared his view that only through cooperation will there be progress made in the fight against homelessness.
“The people in the churches are your neighbors,” Gordon said, asking, “What do we want the city to be? That's the real issue.”