Thoughts and ideas on homelessness

Retired police officer Mike Belcher writes:

“It was interesting to see your article today as we have experienced a growth in homeless near the university and I was talking to my officers last week wondering how Anaheim handles these things as you see little of it when visiting Disneyland. A little research and we found (this) article which is a better way of assisting these individuals.

“Back in 1998 the City of Fontana had a similar problem and developed a similar program that was so successful, they had to shut down some of the shelters and feeding stations as they had no clients. They found many of the homeless were from other areas where they had resources and family looking for them. They developed a way to get them back to those resources.

“Didn’t require a task force or a Marshall plan.”

Belcher’s contribution is outstanding. Check out those links. The PD may argue it doesn’t have even two police to devote to homelessness because it is waging a pitched battle against violent crime. But surely this sort of solution deserves consideration.

Mental Health Outreach Worker Dennis Buettner writes:

 ”You also hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the closure of the hotels. We have lost in excess of seven hundred hotel rooms since 2001. The closure of those hotels by the city (some were in very horrific shape), the closure of some by being closed by the owners who plan to redevelop, and the remodeling of some and then not accepting General Assistance. This has created some real problems that compound the issues of the homeless. The lack of development of affordable (in terms of very low to almost no income) is a huge problem.

While those that are on General Assistance (GA) are not counted, what is amazing is the number of people who are on GA but unable to find suitable places to live either due to the poor quality, safety, or just plain availability. Please consider this also, in the old days, the shelters used to be able to say that the stay is 30 days because usually a person could get thing turned around quite quickly and get going again. Those days are long gone. The number of people that call the shelter “Home” versus a stopover is growing.

Among those people that have housing issues (I get tired of hearing we have a “homeless problem” as they are people first) you also have people that have a wide variety of other issues. The number of people who are older than 65 the numbers are growing. You have people with developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, substance abuse issues, and mental health issues that are part of that population. It is also correct to say that the Social Security system is a difficult system for many people to navigate.

“Whatever solutions are offered it will take a collaboration many agencies and businesses both private and public to come up with truly viable solutions.”

And it will take a leader capable of bringing those groups together. The mayor deserves credit for taking the first step, but his paranoid distrust of the established system probably means he’s not the guy to get it done.

An anonynous correspondent writes:

“Today Stockton makes the Wall Street Journal, page 2, for the 2006 killing of innocent bystander, Sergio Garibay.
Stockton oughta stop the Ceasefire, touchy-feely encounter group crappolla and initiate a stop and frisk/jail the SOBs program, like the one that NYC initiated under Giuliani. ”

Right. Just hang ‘em higher.

Operation Ceasefire is not some “touchie feelie” encounter group,. Empirical evidence from cities such as Boston shows it works. Criminal justice professionals throughout Stockton and San Joaquin County support it for that reason

I have mixed feelings about stop and frisk. It has made a difference in New York. But it has been ruled unconstitutional, though NYC is appealing the ruling. New Mayor Bill De Blasio has vowed to reform the policy.

Read this and you’ll see some of the concerns with stop and frisk. Essentially it could enhance law and order in Stockton, but at the cost of making racial tensions worse, and of getting the city entangled in costly litigation.

We’re going beyond homelessness here. Stop and frisk (or some constitutional variation) remains a valid option. What is not, however, is the notion that we only have to be tougher: tougher laws, tougher sentences, etc. That has been tried. It failed in Stockton, where law enforcement officials now see the need to complement hook-em-and-book-em policies with programs that treat the social disease and not just its symptoms. It failed in California, where an ever-expanding prison system became so unmanageable its dysfunctions brought federal intervention, AB 109 (realignment), the release of state prisoners to counties, which, paradoxically has put more criminals on our streets.

Affordable housing administrator Bill Mendelson writes:

“Below are some thoughts of how the issue could be addressed without involving the large resources necessary to build more affordable units or to underwrite people’s rent.”

—Create multi-disciplinary (mental health, substance abuse, health care) Support & Intervention Teams – funded through Medi-Cal – to provide support for permanent supportive housing programs

—Develop written policies to prevent discharge to homelessness by foster care, mental health, health care (public & private hospitals), prisons & jails

 —Public schools – develop uniform closets, extend after school programs (parents with limited transportation); work with identified homeless families to find child care; work with transitional housing programs

 —Faith community could institute adopt a family/household to provide basic furnishings for homeless households; contribute to a transportation fund to underwrite the cost of returning people to families; contribute to a deposit assistance program?

—BHS and related agencies work with shelters to identify persons with disabilities and then use the SOAR strategy to help identified people get SSI, etc. (which would provide income for housing, etc.).

—Use a single form for food stamps and other benefits.

—Shelters can institute diversion and prevention efforts through staff training so that only those with no other options end up in shelters.

 —Encourage local businesses to consider hiring qualified people who are homeless.

—Have job training programs provide priority to homeless households

—Housing Authority provides increased priority to homeless individuals and families.


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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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