Letter to the Editor: Malibu’s Homeless Task Force

Dear Editor, 

This is a modified letter that I sent to City Council on Jan. 13, in response to Task Force Member Scott Dittrich’s letter of Jan. 9, and Dittrich’s public comment that same night at council, in which he stated that the Task Force has completed their duties and should be disbanded.

Scott was not speaking on behalf of the Homeless Task Force, and as of this time, no member has resigned. 

Dear Honorable Mayor, Council, and city staff:

Concerning Task Force member Scott Dittrich’s Jan. 9, 2023 letter to city council suggesting that the Homelessness Task Force (HTF) be disbanded, I strongly disagree with his statements. Though I respect and have enjoyed working with Mr. Dittrich, he was speaking as an individual and does not represent my or the opinion of the Task Force. 

The work of the Homelessness Task Force is far from complete, and this body plays an important role in safeguarding humane policies surrounding our unhoused population, as well as the general well-being and safety of our community. Furthermore, at a time when homelessness is at an all-time high, the optics of Malibu disbanding its Task Force sends the wrong message to Malibu citizens and feeds the incorrect perception of community NIMBYism by the public at large. 

Homelessness impacts almost all departments at our city hall. The Homelessness Task Force is the only appointee body researching cross-departmental concerns that impact council’s ability to make informed public policy decisions. Furthermore, Malibu needs the HTF’s oversite on enforcement, LA County policies, funding programs, accuracy of LASA statements (Homeless Point in Time Count and accuracy of the application used in the count), contracts with service providers, and to relay the concerns of the council’s constituency. 

Homelessness policies locally, regionally, and nationally are extremely fluid, and a body appointed by the council ensures interpretation of these from a representative perspective. In an attempt to be inclusive of all stakeholders, the city has been seeking ways to increase the two-way flow of communication with the public. The HTF is just one of those important vehicles, and as a HTF member, I am often personally contacted by members of the public with their concerns. 

I want to keep this brief but also relay to you that at a time when we see divisiveness in politics as our “new normal,” our Task Force members worked together respectfully and with great consideration of the other’s positions. Like the council that appointed us, we represent a cross-section of views on the controversial topic of how best to address homelessness in our city. 

We came together, across political party lines and philosophical differences, to formulate reports and recommendations. I am proud of our work product, and our members and expect to see those who have been active and want to remain, continue this important work. 

I do hope the council continues to support the existence of the Homelessness Task Force and that I continue to have the privilege of serving at your pleasure.

Kelly Pessis, Malibu 

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