The Homeless & Polluted Waterways

There s a strong connection as this article from California Healthline reports.

An excerpt.

“Fecal Bacteria In California’s Waterways Increases With Homeless Crisis

President Donald Trump, a self-described germophobe, has made no secret of his disgust with California’s growing homeless problem, which he has called a “disgrace” and “inappropriate” and equated to “living in hell.”

“We should all work together to clean up these hazardous waste and homeless sites before the whole city rots away,” Trump tweeted about San Francisco on Oct. 26. “Very bad and dangerous conditions, also severely impacting the Pacific Ocean and water supply.”

“San Francisco officials were quick to dispute Trump’s claims. But some of California’s most prized rivers, beaches and streams are indeed contaminated with levels of fecal bacteria that exceed state limits, threatening kayakers, swimmers — and the state’s reputation as a bastion of environmental protection.

“The presence of fecal bacteria in water is usually the result of problems with sewer systems and septic tanks. But water quality officials agree that the source of at least some of the fecal bacteria is California’s growing homeless population, most of whom don’t have reliable access to toilets.

“I’ve carried 5-gallon buckets that were unambiguously being used as toilets,” said David Gibson, executive officer of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, describing his experience cleaning up homeless encampments. “They were taking it to the San Diego River, dumping it there, and rinsing it out there.”

“Fecal contamination of waterways is a widespread problem and becoming more urgent in states with large homeless populations. In Seattle, homeless people living in RVs are accused of dumping raw sewage straight into storm drains, which flows directly to local waterways. In Oregon, workers cleaning up homeless camps along the Willamette River in Eugene routinely find feces and needles.

“California has the largest homeless population in the nation, estimated at more than 151,000 people in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. About 72% of the state’s homeless slept outside or in cars rather than in shelters or temporary housing.

“The Trump administration has fixated on California’s homeless population in particular as a potent source of pollution.

“In addition to Trump’s tweets, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 26 alleging that the state’s lack of urgency on homelessness threatens public health by polluting nearby water with untreated human waste. It then issued a notice to San Francisco accusing it of violating the federal Clean Water Act.

“Jared Blumenfeld, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, responded by accusing the federal EPA of retreating on clean water protection, and called the administration’s focus on the environmental impact of homelessness “sensationalized” and “misguided.”

“But concerns extend beyond the Trump administration. A record number of Californians — about 1 in 4 — believe homelessness and housing is the top issue facing the state today, up from 1% in 1999, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

“When it comes to water, scientists look for E. coli and other bacteria to determine levels of fecal contamination. While E. coli is present in both human and animal feces, human fecal contamination is particularly dangerous because it can transmit diseases that affect people, including hepatitis A and cholera….

“Farther north, in Sacramento, regulators have been measuring elevated fecal bacteria levels in the lower American River for more than three years. Located near downtown Sacramento, it is a popular destination for water sports, even as hundreds of homeless people camp nearby.

“Some recreational areas, including Tiscornia Beach, where families picnic, BBQ and wade in the river, had E. coli levels so high in the past year that they hit the upper limits of what the water board’s laboratories could measure — more than seven times higher than the state standard, said Adam Laputz, assistant executive officer of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.

“The board is conducting a three-year DNA analysis to determine whether the bacteria comes from people, birds or dogs, he said. “That source could be from a sewage collection that’s leaky, or it could be from leaky septic systems,” in addition to homeless encampments, he said.

“If the source is human, the water board will embark on a new study to determine whether the source is an infrastructure failure or individuals.”

Retrieved January 7, 2020 from https://californiahealthline.org/news/fecal-bacteria-in-californias-waterways-increases-with-homeless-crisis/

 

Posted in Environmentalism, Homelessness

City for Homeless

Creative thinking in this proposal from Citizens Again based in Folsom.

An excerpt.

“FOLSOM, Calif., Dec. 19, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Today, after 2 1/2 years in development, Citizens Again announces its project to build a single, supportive living environment for America’s entire chronic homeless adult population. It will be a secure, all-inclusive, private city, built from the ground up, with all the amenities and services necessary for a 150,000 high-needs population.

“Plans for the 300-acre City include high-density housing, hospital and full healthcare, food services, activities, entertainment, life skills enrichment, on-site jobs and training, and more. Early cost estimates to build the City to be approximately $3B (2019 dollars).

“11 Years Instead of 200

“For decades, politicians have worked to ‘end homelessness’ by repeating the same efforts of creating small shelters in cities across America to house the chronic homeless,” said Duane Nason, founder of Citizens Again. “Based on the government’s placement rate from the last ten years, it will take close to 200 years to create enough shelters to house the 90,000 unsheltered chronic homeless adults. Nobody wants to wait that long. With Citizens Again, it will take about 11 years to build the city, with a target open date of 2031.”

“To solve the problems the chronic homeless cause society, we must first solve their problems,” said Nason. “But this can’t be done with today’s fractured efforts. It needs to be exponentially more. And the only way to build a complete solution is to build a complete city.”

“How it Will Work

“Qualified citizens will choose to live in the City and are free to leave at any time. Some might want to stay forever. Others might just need a chance to get back on their feet to reenter society.

“For those that wish to better themselves, or prepare to reenter society, the City will provide counseling and therapy, life skills training, educational services, job training, reentry support services, and more. Every effort will go into creating a place they’ll want to move to and enjoy living at.

“93% Cost Savings

“In 2018, the federal government spent $6.1 billion on the homeless. About 78% of that was spent on the chronic homeless, even though they are only 18% of the entire homeless population. The total budget has increased an average of 7% each year, from 2009 to 2018.

“Most of that spending goes towards addressing the symptoms of homelessness: cleaning up encampments, sterilization of public spaces, hazmat cleanups, salaries for emergency responders, visits to the ER and stays in hospitals, and more.

“But with the City, billions of taxpayer dollars can be saved annually by removing those costs as well as the cost savings from economies of scale being reached by having a single, large-scale solution. For example:

“•  Volume discounts (food, clothes, building materials, etc.)
•  Buying affordable land (1 lot vs. 4,000 lots across America)
•  Dedicated medical team (vs. costs from ambulances, ERs, and private hospitals)
•  Consolidated staff (1 central team vs. spread across America)
•  Utilize technology to increase efficiency (security, access, etc.)
•  And so much more

“Calculations indicate economies of scale can achieve a 93% reduction of what is spent on each unsheltered chronic homeless adult. This results in annual expenditure totals of $455M (based on 100k population), and with cost offsets from manufacturing and service profits, this could drop to $296M per year. With offsets, this equates to per capita rates of $3,000 per year in the City vs. $80,000 with unsheltered chronic homeless.”

Retrieved December 23, 2019 from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/citizens-again-is-now-crowdfunding-to-build-a-city-for-americas-chronic-homeless-300978095.html

Posted in Homelessness

Christmas/New Year Break

We will resume blogging Monday Janaury 6, 2020

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Posted in Holiday

Homeless Campfires & Public Safety

They are occurring too close to homes and it is a sad story from KCRA Channel 3 that there has been—up to this point—no response either to KCRA or to the homeowner affected.

The KCRA Story

“Homeless camp catches fire for third time near Sacramento homes, Updated: 7:24 AM PST Dec 20, 201

“SACRAMENTO, Calif. —

“A fire ignited at a homeless encampment Thursday afternoon just feet away from neighborhood homes in south Sacramento.

“At about 3:30 p.m., flames engulfed the campsite. Thick black smoke filled the sky as the flames grew and intensified just feet away from homes in the Southeast Village neighborhood. Firefighters arrived within minutes to put them out.

“Homeowners said this is the third time this year firefighters had to put out the flames so close to their homes. Lorena Alvina just put up the new wood fence surrounding her property because a previous fire at a homeless camp burned down the old one.

“On Sept. 24, an even bigger fire sparked directly across the creek from Alvina’s backyard. All three fires started in homeless encampments.

“We had to move the fence a couple feet from the creek property, but apparently it happened again,” said Alvina’s brother Jerry Alcala.

“The family had to build a new fence about 3 feet away from their property line, because people in the encampment are building fires to cook and keep warm just inches away from the original fence.

“If this fence gets on fire, then everything goes and we get more problems,” Alcala said while pointing to the new wooden fence surrounding the home.

“Every time they set fire, the smell of the smoke gets into my garage … and my daughter has lung cancer. She’s coughing. All this is not good for her,” said Alvina.

“They’ve reached out to the city and to police to have the people cleared out, but nothing is being done.

“My daughter has been sending emails, and she’s making a lot of calls, and they say they’re going to send someone to remove them. They’re going to do something about it, but they haven’t done anything yet,” Alvina said. “They don’t listen to us. I feel frustrated and I feel sad.”

“KCRA 3 reached out to District 6 City Councilman Eric Guerra after this latest fire and also following the last fire back in September, but did not hear back either time.”

Retrieved December 20, 2019 from https://www.kcra.com/article/south-sacramento-homeless-encampment-fires/30295849

 

 

Posted in Homelessness, Public Safety

Transit Spending Up, Ridership Down

Of course this is no surprise. People just prefer riding in their cars rather than the uncertainty and unsafe experience of public transit, and it is another example—like that noted yesterday—of how often government increases money to fix something and the something gets worse.

Story from New Geography.

An excerpt.

“Taxpayers spent nearly $3.75 billion more subsidizing transit in 2018 than the year before, yet transit carried 215 million fewer riders, according to the latest data released by the Federal Transit Administration. The increase in spending didn’t even translate to an increase in service, as transit agencies provided 44 million fewer vehicle miles of service in 2018.

“In percentage terms, subsidies rose by 7.4 percent while ridership fell by 2.1 percent and vehicles miles of service fell by 0.9 percent. These numbers are from the 2018 National Transit Database, a series of 30 spreadsheets summarizing the annual performance of all of the nation’s transit agencies that have received federal support (which is nearly all of them). Numbers in the database are based on each agency’s fiscal year, so may not exactly agree with calendar year numbers calculated from the monthly updates.

“Total transit ridership in 2018 was lower than any year since 2006. Bus ridership has plummeted to be lower than any year since 1940, when streetcars still carried almost half of all of the nation’s transit riders.

“The industry has not responded to declining ridership by reducing its costs. Instead, operating costs grew by $1.9 billion (4.0%), despite the decline in vehicle miles of service. Expenditures on capital improvements, that is, expansions of existing systems, grew by 7.9 percent or close to $500 million. The vast majority—84 percent—of these capital improvements were for some form of rail transit.….

“Conclusions

“The latest data show that ridership is declining despite increased spending on transit. The reason for that is that transit is not capable of competing against other modes of travel. Rather than trying to figure out how to “save transit,” people who care about mobility, low-income people, and the environment should worry about making sure that what replaces transit does so economically, safely, and with environmental sensitivity.

“The 2018 National Transit Database includes more than 30 spreadsheets that are sometimes difficult to understand. I’ve collapsed the most useful data into a single spreadsheet showing ridership, passenger miles, service, fares, costs, and other data. The raw data for every transit agency and mode are in rows 1 through 4320 and columns A through Y.

“Columns Z and AA are my calculations of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions that will be discussed in detail in next week’s policy brief. Columns AB through AQ are calculations of such indicators as miles per hour, average vehicle occupancies, fares per trips/passenger mile, and costs per trip, passenger mile, and vehicle revenue mile. Summaries by mode are in rows 4327 through 4368. Summaries by urban area are in rows 4380 through 4870.

“One item that is questionable is column Y, the miles of rail transit. The data in the spreadsheet providing this information was entered inconsistently, so check the numbers in this column before quoting them. Fortunately, these numbers aren’t used in any later calculations.”

Retrieved December 18, 2019 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/006501-costs-up-transit-ridership-down

 

Posted in Government, Transportation

Homelessness Increases

An excellent analysis of who gets the money to fix it and how little it is fixed, from California Globe.

In our area, a strategy helping the homeless (and local residents and business who suffer the impacts) needs to be developed that is capable of safely sheltering up to 3 to 4 thousand homeless folks a night safely distant from residential neighborhoods and business—with available transformational services—and San Antonio’s Haven for Hope program, especially the courtyard strategy they use for safe rapid shelter for large numbers, seems to offer an answer; which you can read about from their brochure at

http://www.havenforhope.org/downloads/docs/H4H%20Brochure%2010-31-2016.pdf   and you can read more about Haven for Hope applicability in our area from

An excerpt from the Globe article.

“More people are sleeping on sidewalks in Sacramento – even as federal spending rises,” the Sacramento Bee reported Monday. “Federal lawmakers say they understand the gravity of the problem. The issue got unusually unified political support this year as House and Senate budget-writers quietly agreed on more spending.”

“Advocacy groups dealing daily with the homeless generally praise the effort.”

“Of course advocacy groups praise the “more spending” effort. They are in line to receive the money.

“But the homeless problem isn’t “housing,” it is drug addiction and mental illness, and everyone claiming affordable housing is the barrier knows that is a lie.

“When President Donald Trump and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson rejected Gov. Gavin Newsom’s and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s letter requesting additional federal funding for homelessness, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed another $2.8 billion for homeless assistance programs via HUD.

Dr. Carson’s letter (below) to Gov. Newsom and Mayor Steinberg was crystal clear:

“Your letter seeks more Federal dollars for California from hardworking American taxpayers but fails to admit that your State and local policies have played a major role in creating the current crisis. If California’s homeless population had held in line with overall population trends, America’s homeless rate would have decreased. Instead, the opposite has happened, as California’s unsheltered homelessness population has skyrocketed as a result of the State’s overregulated housing market, its inefficient allocation of resources, and its policies that have weakened law enforcement.

“An overregulated housing market drives up housing costs and increases homelessness rates. As a result, the cost of Federal housing subsidies increases and taxpayers can support fewer families. 

“Compounding the homelessness crisis, California has undercut the ability of police officers to enforce quality-of-life laws, remove encampments, and connect our most vulnerable populations with the supportive services they need to get off the streets. 

California must also address mental health. In 2018, 28 percent of California’s homeless suffered from a severe mental illness. Despite this, California has since 1995 divested itself of nearly 30 percent of its acute care psychiatric hospital beds, which limits California’s ability to place the mentally ill into these dwindling facilities. 

California cannot spend its way out of this problem using Federal funds. 

“I hope you and other leaders throughout your State will do more to join us in these efforts, taking action with respect to all of the areas outlined in this letter.”

‘Homeless’ or Drug Addicted Vagrants?

“Last week, California Globe had the opportunity to speak with several Sacramento police officers about the homeless/drug/mental illness explosion. As every other police officer we’ve spoken with says, the drug addicts don’t want housing. They don’t want anything other than money to buy drugs. When they are offered shelter, the police said the drug addicts always refuse.

“California has roughly 134,000 homeless people that we know of, amounting to one-quarter of the nation’s total homeless population.

“In Will $1 Billion Spending on California’s Homeless Fix the Problem?, California Globe covered a myriad of issues surrounding California’s homeless explosion including how tiny houses in Los Angeles haven’t worked out as planned; they became tiny crack houses. The Homeless encampments along the sides of levees in Sacramento are now damaging the flood control structures, and also in the state’s Capitol, the homeless live in parks, in tents along rivers, on the streets and in alleys, and were sleeping at City Hall at night, after police were chastised for chasing them away.

“With Gov. Gavin Newsom proposing in his May Budget Revise $650 million in grants to homelessness agencies and local government to help fund emergency shelters, housing assistance, and new construction, adding up to $1 billion in spending on the homeless in the Golden State, where is the money actually going?

“Show Me the Money

“Sacramento closed the only city-run homeless shelter April 30 after spending $5 million on it. There were just 37 homeless people using it when it closed. The City opened another homeless facility in July, “when the Capitol Park Hotel is set to open downtown with up to 180 beds,” the Sacramento Bee reported. The City spent more than $23 million to open a 180-bed temporary homeless shelter at the Capitol Park Hotel downtown, where more than 90 elderly and disabled people were living. They were ousted to make way for the homeless.

“And last week, Sacramento City Council and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency announced they are planning to open cabin-style shelters with services for 100 homeless people somewhere in north Sacramento by mid-March.

“What they should be opening is drug rehabilitation centers and mental health facilities. The primary source of “homelessness” is not housing affordability, but drug addiction and mental illness.

“The Bee reports, “Sacramento’s survey found 5,570 people are homeless on a given night, up 19% from 2017. Of those people, 1,670 were sheltered and 3,900, or 70%, were unsheltered. That’s double the national percentage of 35% and despite millions of dollars in both state and local funding spent to address the problem.”

“The survey was conducted by Sacramento Steps Forward. “As one of the only nonprofit organizations in the country responsible for managing U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds for homelessness granted under the The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act, we are uniquely positioned to collaborate with our Continuum of Care partners and develop regional solutions.”

“Sacramento Steps Forward was originally formed by former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson in 2009, in tandem with then-President Barack Obama’s “housing first” policy in the HEARTH Act.

“Johnson’s Sacramento Steps Forward said it is “an initiative to combat the immediate crisis of providing winter shelter to the homeless in our region. Sacramento Steps Forward has since transformed into one of the region’s leading nonprofits committed to addressing the multi-faceted challenge of ending homelessness in the Sacramento community,” they claim.

“Except Sacramento’s “homeless” has quadrupled since 2009, even with Sacramento Steps Forward’s income of $14,309,325, according to the 2017 IRS Form 990. The Executive Director made $150,000 in 2017, and $163,500 in 2016, and the non-profit spent more than $1.3 million in annual salaries in 2017, and $1.4 in 2016. They issued $10 million and $9 million in grants in 2017 and 2016 respectively….

“Many correctly conclude that there is too much money to be made in the homeless business for any real solutions to be implemented.”

Retrieved December 16, 2019 from https://californiaglobe.com/section-2/governor-more-federal-spending-on-housing-will-fix-californias-homeless-epidemic/

Posted in Government, Homelessness

Army Corps of Engineers News Release.

“Levee improvement work along Sacramento River set to begin this week

“Published Dec. 17, 2019

“SACRAMENTO, California — Site preparation activity for upcoming levee improvements along the Sacramento River east levee will begin this week, kicking off a five-year U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to upgrade levees throughout the Sacramento region and widen the Sacramento Weir.

“Arborist crews will begin trimming and removing trees located in sections of the Sacramento River east levee between downtown Sacramento and the Pocket area. The Corps will trim or remove trees on the upper half of levees where 2020 construction is planned to allow for construction equipment accessibility and to create the minimum working platform required to construct necessary levee improvements.

“The work will require temporary delays for users of the Sacramento River bike trail in the Pocket area and north of Sutterville Road where crews are working. Flaggers will be on-site to assist with safe passage through the work area.

“Next spring, construction crews will begin levee improvement work on approximately three miles of contracted sections. Work here will require degrading as much as one-half of the levee crest in order to install seepage cutoff walls up to 135 feet deep. This will help prevent through- and under-seepage from compromising the levee and flooding nearby neighborhoods. The levee will then be rebuilt in time for the rainy season in winter 2020.  Garcia Bend Park’s boat ramp and boat trailer parking will be closed during levee construction; however, park access and remaining parking areas will remain open.

“This is the second in a series of levee improvement efforts that we’ll be completing between now and 2024, all with the intent of lowering the region’s flood risk,” said Nikole May, project manager for the Corps. “We have a lot of work to do but we’re grateful for the opportunity to proactively address the risk and are eager to get started.”

“Authorized in 2016, the American River Common Features Project is a $1.8 billion cooperative effort between the Corps, California Central Valley Flood Protection Board, California Department of Water Resources and the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency. The project will result in a number of levee upgrades to reduce the flood risk for more than half a million people living in the Sacramento region, including:

  • As much as 13 miles of seepage cutoff wall;
  • As much as 5 miles of levee stabilization measures to address seepage and stability concerns along the Sacramento River, the east side of the Natomas East Main Drainage Canal, and Arcade Creek;
  • As much as 21 miles of erosion prevention features along the Sacramento and American Rivers; and
  • Widening the Sacramento Weir and Bypass to draw flood waters away from the Sacramento metropolitan area.
  •  Tyler Stalker
    916-557-5107
    tyler.m.stalker@usace.army.mil
  • “Release no. 19-020”
  • “Contact
  • “For more information on the project and our progress, please visit www.sacleveeupgrades.com, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Posted in River Development