Skip to content

Is Brian Maienschein’s heart beginning to bleed?

August 27, 2009 - 3:47 pm

If it’s true that Brian Maienschein was in a world he never seemed to even want to understand, it looks like he’s beginning to get it.

The United Way of San Diego hired Maienschein back in January to lead the implementation of the local version of the nationwide Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. During an eight-year stint on the San Diego City Council, Maienschein, a Republican, wasn’t exactly the city’s leading advocate for helping poor people find permanent, affordable housing.

But this morning, appearing as a panelist in a forum on homelessness held by the civic group Citizens Coordinate for Century 3, Maienschein sounded like a bleeding-heart liberal who might know a thing or two about communicating with conservatives.

Among the concepts that Maienschein appears now to understand:

  • Homeless people need ID cards to get a job and certain government benefits. He talked about a deal the United Way set up with the DMV to help homeless veterans get ID cards—until mandatory furloughs for state workers got in the way. Apparently, that program is reloaded and ready to fire.
  • A good time to intervene in the lives of homeless folks is when they’re released from the hospital emergency room, which often happens before they’re fully recovered from whatever was ailing them. He talked about the United Way’s efforts to partner with the San Diego Rescue Mission in that regard.
  • It’s important to intervene on behalf of homeless alcoholics. He lauded the city’s Serial Inebriate Program, which attempts to compel habitual substance users who get arrested to choose a sobriety program and transitional housing as an alternative to the jail-court-street-jail-court-street cycle.
  • Criminal-offender rehabilitation programs should be funded. Despite what some Republican state legislators might think (my words), prisoners are eventually released (Maienschein’s words). Sometimes, homelessness awaits them, and about two-thirds of them return to prison. Maybe, just maybe, rehabilitation will help break that cycle.
  • It’s a lot more expensive to continue to treat homeless people in emergency rooms and cycle them through the criminal-justice system again and again than it is to house them and provide them with services aimed at getting them back into mainstream life. Maienschein said that many people say “nothing” when asked what should be done to help the homeless. But, he noted, doing nothing is not an option. Taxpayers pay for homelessness whether they like it or not. So, he gets that the economic argument is the one to make to conservatives.

CityBeat sharply criticized the United Way for choosing Maienschein for the homelessness gig. We thought a better choice would be someone who’d demonstrated even just an ounce of caring for poor people. But maybe we had it all wrong. Maybe the best way to help conservative politicians understand social issues is to drop them in the middle of the social-services arena. We’ll see how good Maienschein is at finding money to create permanent supportive housing, but today at least gave the impression that Maienschein’s moving in the right direction.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: