Nonprofit Concentration Hurts Adjacent Areas

The community discussion reported in this story from the Maui News—while reflecting the situation in the Hawaiian town—also resonates with a Sacramento situation.

Congregating the homeless concentrates the culture of homelessness, continuing the downward cycle.

It is accepted as fact—by local business and residential communities—that the concentration of homeless and other social service nonprofits in the Richards Blvd/12th Street/North Sacramento vicinity has severely degraded the quality of life and public safety for businesses and residents in and around the area, validated in a recent story from the Sacramento Press.

An excerpt.

“Our area is swarming with homeless and transient individuals that negatively impact our businesses,” River District PBID Executive Director Patty Kleinknecht said during the public hearing. She noted a McDonald’s restaurant and a nearby gas station have problems with aggressive panhandlers and loitering.

“People don’t feel comfortable in that environment. We all know we tend to avoid those business environments and areas where we don’t feel comfortable,” she added later. “In this economy, businesses need all the customers they can get.”

It also has a severe impact on the Parkway as the concentration of domestic services attracts illegal homeless campers to the Parkway, where many have been camping for several years.

This negative impact extends to downtown where panhandling, loitering, and related crime have added to the long-term difficulty of renewing the lower K Street area.

Helping the less fortunate or those who have fallen on hard times is an important aspect of community and individual compassion and charity; but it is not something that should be at the expense of the public safety or economic viability of the larger community.

Helping another should not harm someone else.

An excerpt from the Maui News.

“WAILUKU – Even as the makeover of Wailuku town continues in a decades-long redevelopment project, some merchants and residents expressed concern Friday that a concentration of social services in the area could attract homelessness and crime.

“Wailuku either already is or will soon become home to a halfway house, housing for the developmentally disabled, a residential mental health care center, a free clinic, a battered women’s shelter and a soup kitchen, said resident and commercial broker Susan Halas.

“I’m not advocating kicking any nonprofit out, not at all, but maybe we should consider that we are at a tipping point,” Halas said when reached by phone Friday. “At some point, if you only have people there because they are receiving assistance, if nonprofits occupy a large percentage of your available space, then it becomes difficult for for-profits to come in.”

“But Wailuku businessman Richard Dan said Market Street was in no way a new hotbed of crime.

“Dan agreed there is a problem with “annoying” drunks at the privately owned banyan tree park at the corner of Market and Vineyard streets but said that overall the complaints are overblown.

“They are trying to say there are junkies nodding off in the alleys, and that’s not the truth,” Dan said.

“The Maui Redevelopment Agency has adopted a plan for the 60-acre area calling for mixed use, such as buildings that combine residential, business, office and retail functions. But Executive Director of Wailuku Main Street Association, Jocelyn Perreira said the group still has a way to go toward its goal.

“Some residents and merchants blame the MRA – a recommending agency for redevelopment in Wailuku – for the influx of nonprofits to the area. Others say it’s still too early to pass judgment on the effects of a master plan developed years ago.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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