Rendering of Burbank Boulevard Senior Housing

Letter from Doug Shoemaker | Autumn 2021

Headshot of Doug Shoemaker, Male Wearing Pink Shirt and Blue BlazerIf you had asked me ten years ago to predict the next phase of California’s homelessness crisis, I would have expressed an optimism that’s wound up being challenging to sustain. Just like each of you, I’ve been dismayed by the stubbornness of this crisis. Not a single one of our neighbors should be living in a tent, in a car, or in a dangerous motel, and it’s easy to get discouraged by the sheer scale of the problem at hand.

As a movement, we have actually accomplished so much in terms of helping people who are homeless. Nearly 100,000 people moved into permanent housing last year, and we’ve learned a great deal about what it takes to help families, seniors, and young people exit homelessness for good. And yet, there continue to be as many people unhoused as there were a decade ago. That has translated into a growing sense of frustration — with government, nonprofit organizations like Mercy Housing, and people who are homeless themselves.

What I’ve come to realize is that one of our greatest challenges is to continuously re-appraise the dynamic nature of homelessness in California and then help inform policy makers and the public about what is changing. In hindsight, we have become captives of political rhetoric. When we asked voters across the state to fund permanent supportive housing as a solution to homelessness, little did we know that the economy, public policy, and a global pandemic would swell the ranks of people becoming newly homeless beyond what we could ever have imagined.

That desire to re-evaluate and inform is the inspiration behind this publication. We hope that every Mercy Housing supporter not only helps our organization, but also becomes an educator and an advocate in their community. To that extent, it’s vital that we all understand that ending homelessness is as much about preventing people from becoming homeless as it is about providing exits from it.

In order to do that, the strategies we employ should be different, or at least more varied, than the approach we take to helping people who have been chronically homeless. At Mercy Housing, we see one of our most important roles as continuing to create new housing opportunities for people coming out of homelessness and families at risk of homelessness due to income or other circumstances.

Our other key role is to be advocates for policy changes and resources. Right now, we are pushing for more rental subsidies, better access to mental health treatment and livable wages — because without those supports, there is no way to make homelessness “rare, brief, and non-recurring.”

Thank you for joining us in taking a stand against homelessness.

Yours in Hope,

Doug Shoemaker
President, Mercy Housing California

Mercy Housing California’s Board of Directors oversees efforts to provide California seniors, families and individuals in need with affordable housing programs.