Expert Q & A | January 5, 2007
G. Allan Kingston
President and CEO, Century Housing
Board Member, National Alliance to End Homelessness
What is the newest issue emerging in homelessness policy?
Nationwide, more advocacy groups, and state and local governments are working to create more permanent solutions to the homeless crisis. Since California passed Prop 63, the “Mental Health Services Act,” in November of 2004, California’s focus has been on more permanent supportive housing for the homeless, and related programs that shepherd the formerly homeless through the rehabilitation process, which is a much better direction than simply trying to shelter people temporarily.
For example, in 1999 Century Housing helped finance Villages at Cabrillo, a 26-acre transitional and permanent homes facility for formerly homeless veterans, men, women and families, with programs administered by US VETS, Catholic Charities, Salvation Army and other service providers. We are about to complete the third phase of Cabrillo, which will feature permanent homes for formerly homeless families.
We also helped finance People Assisting The Homeless (PATH), a transitional facility in Hollywood that has turned thousands of lives around, and we have enjoyed successful collaborations with developers like LA Family Housing, creating hundreds of apartment homes for low-income families. It’s the old adage of, “If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day; if you teach him how to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.”
What issue in homelessness policy should everyone be reminded of?
Aside from the obvious aesthetic and community issues that inspire people to act on behalf of the homeless, there is a moral obligation on the part of government, the private sector, and the citizens to help those who live on the streets find their way back to productive lives. It may sound somewhat esoteric, but these men, women and families are in many cases not any different from you or I; and if we do not address this issue now as a society, what is the message we are sending? That the less fortunate should be hidden away for the aesthetic benefit of the rest of us? We need to look at this issue with both compassion and pragmatism.
How did you start working in the field of homelessness (or housing)?
I began my career in city redevelopment in Oakland, and I have since served in many facets of the housing industry, in both public and private sectors. In 1995, Federal Appeals Court Judge Harry Pregerson, who presided over the consent decree which established the State’s Century Freeway Housing Program in 1979, appointed a ten-member Board of Directors, of which I am one, to the newly privatized Century Housing Corporation, and I have been the President & CEO ever since.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
Probably what is most inspiring to me are the people we serve. By financing housing that is affordable to those otherwise locked out of the housing market, and providing quality-of-life social services to tens of thousands of Southern California residents, Century Housing is part of the solution. It is a very good feeling to go home every night knowing that we are making a positive difference in the lives of thousands of families, and that our legacy in the community will be one of enrichment of opportunity.
Why do you think ending homelessness is possible?
Read past Take Five! Expert Q & As.
I believe it is not only possible but imperative. We are a modern society, with modern conveniences, modern science and the world at our fingertips. There is no reason why we should not find a solution to the tragedy of a family, a veteran, a man or woman, and especially a child, living on the street. If we do not address the problem now, the future health of our communities, our inner cities, our economy, and, ultimately, our nation is at stake.