Homeless on West Coast Increasing

As this article from the San Francisco Chronicle reports, though we are not in agreement that housing costs are the main reason; without considering the role individual choice (whether to abuse drugs, refuse treatment for mental issues or just to live rent free off the grid) plays.

An excerpt.

SEATTLE (AP) — Housing prices are soaring here thanks to the tech industry, but the boom comes with a consequence: A surge in homelessness marked by 400 unauthorized tent camps in parks, under bridges, on freeway medians and along busy sidewalks. The liberal city is trying to figure out what to do.

“I’ve got economically zero unemployment in my city, and I’ve got thousands of homeless people that actually are working and just can’t afford housing,” said Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien. “There’s nowhere for these folks to move to.”

That struggle is not Seattle’s alone. A homeless crisis is rocking the entire West Coast, pushing abject poverty into the open like never before.

Public health is at risk, several cities have declared states of emergency, and cities and counties are spending millions — in some cases billions — in a search for solutions.

San Diego now scrubs its sidewalks with bleach to counter a deadly hepatitis A outbreak. In Anaheim, 400 people sleep along a bike path in the shadow of Angel Stadium. Organizers in Portland lit incense at an outdoor food festival to cover up the stench of urine in a parking lot where vendors set up shop.

Homelessness is not new on the West Coast. But interviews with local officials and those who serve the homeless in California, Oregon and Washington — coupled with an Associated Press review of preliminary homeless data — confirm it’s getting worse.

People who were once able to get by, even if they suffered a setback, are now pushed to the streets because housing has become so expensive. All it takes is a prolonged illness, a lost job, a broken limb, a family crisis. What was once a blip in fortunes now seems a life sentence.

Among the findings:

—Official counts taken earlier this year in California, Oregon and Washington show 168,000 homeless people in the three states, according to an AP tally of every jurisdiction in those states that reports homeless numbers to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That is 19,000 more than were counted in 2015, although the numbers may not be directly comparable because of factors ranging from the weather to new counting methods.

—During the same period, the number of unsheltered people in the three states climbed 18 percent to 105,000.

—Rising rents are the main culprit. The median one-bedroom apartment in the San Francisco Bay Area is more expensive than it is in the New York City metro area, for instance.

—Since 2015, at least 10 cities or municipal regions in California, Oregon and Washington have declared emergencies due to the rise of homelessness, a designation usually reserved for natural disasters.

The West Coast’s newly homeless are people who were able to survive on the margins — until those margins moved.

Retrieved November 6 2017 from http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Homeless-explosion-on-West-Coast-pushing-cities-12334291.php

Posted in Homelessness

Homeless are Dying

It’s rough out there and tragically, too many of the homeless are dying, as the Sacramento Bee reports, because Sacramento hasn’t yet figured out an effective way to shelter and help the thousands of homeless in our community, which is why we suggest the San Antonio model.

In our area, a strategy needs to be applied to the Parkway as part of a larger strategy—capable of sheltering up to 2 or 3 thousand homeless a night—we suggest based on the Haven for Hope http://www.havenforhope.org/downloads/docs/H4H%20Brochure%2010-31-2016.pdf program—especially the courtyard strategy they use for safe rapid shelter for large numbers— in San Antonio adapted for Sacramento, see our news release of September 28, 2015 on our News Page  http://arpps.org/news.html

An excerpt from the Bee article.

Washington Thrower, 68, died after a car struck him and sped away on a Saturday night on 47th Avenue.

Shelly Allen, 49, was beaten to death by an acquaintance in Del Paso Heights.

Eddy Praradov, 30, suffered a fatal drug overdose a week after he vowed to get clean and sober.

The three had at least one thing in common, according to a new report. They were among 71 people who were homeless when they died in Sacramento County last year.

The report prepared by the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness documents the deaths of 776 people between 2002 and 2016 who the coroner’s office determined were homeless. The figure translates to about one death a week for the past 15 years.

Bob Erlenbusch, executive director of the coalition, said the findings underscore the Sacramento area’s need for more shelter beds for homeless people, and more aggressive outreach toward men and women who sleep in parks, in cars, along riverbeds and in front of churches and businesses.

Among the 71 people who died homeless last year, fewer than half took advantage of available services while they were on the streets, Erlenbusch pointed out. The numbers are based on a search of names by Sacramento Steps Forward, a nonprofit group that manages federal funds for homeless services in the county. The group maintains a database that tracks homeless people who check into shelters or receive mental health care or other treatment in the system.

More than half of the 30 people who did receive services last year were physically disabled or suffered from a mental condition, the report says. Nearly half had chronic health issues or were substance abusers.

Erlenbusch and others hope that a new pipeline of money and services will address some of the issues documented in the report.

The city and county are engaged in discussions about funding and implementation of the $64 million federal Whole Person Care pilot program, which will use matching grant dollars to connect chronically homeless people with treatment and housing. Mayor Darrell Steinberg is trying to convince the county to invest an additional $53 million in funding for mental health services, which are not covered by Whole Person Care.

Retrieved November 6 2017 from http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/homeless/article182948566.html

Posted in ARPPS, Homelessness

Jury Agrees with City

A rare legal success in the homelessness situation in Sacramento, as reported in the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

The city of Sacramento did not treat homeless people unfairly in its enforcement of a longtime ordinance banning outdoor camping for extended periods in public and private spaces, a Superior Court jury decided Thursday.

Homeless plaintiffs hoped to prove that the city violated their constitutional right to equal protection under the law by selectively enforcing the ordinance against people forced to live outdoors. Police looked the other way, they argued, when others slept outside for family camping or to be the first in line to land the latest electronic gadget at Best Buy.

After less than a day of deliberations, the jury voted 9-3 in favor of the defendants. The panel sided with the city’s argument that it uses the ordinance to protect the public and act on complaints against campers, and had to cite and arrest homeless people who refused to leave illegal encampments.

The case began more than eight years ago, after about two dozen people camped in a vacant lot at C and 12th streets. The action followed years of efforts to establish a safe and legal place where homeless people could live without fear of being cited or arrested.

After several complaints about noise, odors and trash, police warned the campers that they would be arrested if they stayed on the property. When they refused to leave, officers testified, police cited campers and took them to jail. The campers dispersed only after former Mayor Kevin Johnson promised he would work with them toward their goals. The search for a “Safe Ground” continues today, as the city struggles to find shelter and services for an estimated 3,000 people who sleep outdoors on any given night.

Sacramento’s new mayor, Darrell Steinberg, has made tackling homelessness a centerpiece of his administration.

Juror Steve Stevens, who works at a local gambling hall, said Thursday following the court verdict that a majority of panelists agreed that the ordinance, in effect for 22 years, “is not working” to curb Sacramento’s growing homelessness crisis. “I think all of the jurors felt that the current situation is deplorable,” Stevens said. “But that’s not what we were deciding in this case.”

He said the comparison between Best Buy campers and homeless men and women and their encampments was a stretch for jurors. “The situations are very different,” he said.

In the case of the shoppers, he said, “It seemed clear they wouldn’t be there for an extended period. There was no harm to the public or threat to health and safety.”

Retrieved November 6 2017 from http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article182429671.html

Posted in Homelessness

North Sacramento Gets Homeless Center

Adding to the burden already on the neighborhood, there is more weight coming, as this story in the Sacramento Bee reports.

An excerpt.

Just over a week after approving a controversial winter homeless shelter in North Sacramento, city officials surprised residents Wednesday by announcing they had agreed to move the 200-bed shelter to a different location in the same neighborhood.

Representatives of Volunteers of America and Councilman Allen Warren’s office told the Woodlake Neighborhood Association and other neighborhood leaders that the shelter’s address was being moved to 2040 Railroad Drive, a warehouse on the same street as the location approved by the City Council during a contentious Oct. 24 meeting. A lease agreement for the new site was finalized Wednesday.

Neighborhood residents said they were caught off guard by the move, which was communicated in an email to neighborhood leaders and later at a neighborhood association meeting. They said the switch has further eroded trust in city officials after the neighborhood first learned of plans to place a homeless shelter at 1900 Railroad Drive in a Sacramento Bee article….

Larry Glover-Meade, president of the Woodlake Neighborhood Association, said residents were “really confused” by the switch because he said they were told the original site was the only available warehouse option for a shelter in the area. He said residents are also concerned that the council does not plan to vote on the change and criticized the city for not telling the neighborhood sooner about the move.

“The mayor has promised transparency and communication and yet no one bothered to communicate this with us,” he said.

Retrieved November 3, 2017 from http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/city-beat/article182318886.html

Posted in Homelessness

Sacramento’s Risk of Flooding

It’s great as this article from the Washington Post explains.

And will remain so until we build Auburn Dam.

An excerpt.

SACRAMENTO — Even living here on the West Coast, Marion Townsend decided to act as floods ravaged Texas and hurricanes pounded the Caribbean in recent weeks.

Her Sacramento neighborhood slopes downward from a levee that separates it from the American River, in an area that officials concede never should have been settled but is home to 100,000 residents.

After seeing images of boat rescues in Houston and frantic evacuations in Miami, Townsend began repositioning important documents, photographs, jewelry and her sentimental quilts up onto shelves.

“I am just trying to imagine what three feet of water in my house would look like, and based on that, I moved things higher,” said Townsend, 53. “And if the evacuation order comes, I want to know what I should grab.”

Townsend needs to be reaching even higher.

Models show a levee failure could submerge parts of this inland metropolis under as much as 20 feet of water. As Northern Californians are recovering from wildfires and sifting through homes reduced to ash, officials in the state’s capital are struggling to prevent another type of natural disaster. Sacramento is more vulnerable to catastrophic flooding than any other major city in the United States except New Orleans, according to federal officials, a threat created by the city’s sunken geography.

Levees and other flood defenses here and in the surrounding Central Valley have amassed up to $21 billion in needed repairs and upgrades, while Sacramento’s population has continued to grow. Just days before Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas and flooded Houston, a report from the California Department of Water Resources warned that “many flood facilities” in the Central Valley “face an unacceptably high chance of failure.”

Upgrading the systems has been a challenge. Competition has stiffened for federal dollars to shore up American cities and towns against the threats of extreme weather, leaving 1.3 million residents and $80 billion in property located on the flood plain here at risk.

The population of California’s mid- and upper Central Valley is projected to increase by 70 percent over the next 50 years, the August report notes. And some experts fear preparing the city for even a 200-year storm will prove insufficient.

“The ‘Big Ones’ are still out there for California, and a major storm certainly has the potential to be our next big one,” said Dale Cox, a risk reduction manager for the U.S. Geological Service in Sacramento.

Although Sacramento averages just 18 inches of rain annually, large Pacific Ocean storms known as “atmospheric rivers” periodically strike the coast and settle over the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The storms can carry water vapor equal to “25 Mississippi Rivers,” leading to torrential rain that can fall over snow-packed mountains, said F. Martin Ralph, director of the Center for Western Weather and Weather Extremes at the Scripps Institution for Oceanography.

In Sacramento, where the American River flows into the Sacramento River, 180,000 structures are at risk of flooding. In neighboring West Sacramento, population 50,000, every home and business is in a levee-protected flood plain.

“It’s in our blood and in our history,” said Peter Ghelfi, director of engineering for the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency. “We settled on the banks of the Sacramento River during the Gold Rush era, and we have been defending ourselves ever since.”

The ‘Inland Sea’

The consequences of misjudging the future potency of Mother Nature here are enormous.

If a levee were to break along the American River, which empties into the Sacramento River near downtown, water would start flowing into the city.

Although floodgates could be quickly deployed to protect downtown Sacramento from a life-threatening deluge, the water would eventually seep in from other directions, covering much of the area in several feet of water, said Roger Ince, a Sacramento emergency coordinator.

The water would continue flowing south and deposit more than 20 feet of water in the Pocket neighborhood, where about 20,000 people live in one- and two-story homes.

“You are not going to see a wall of water coming into Sacramento, but you will see rapid flooding and people not able to get out of their homes, out of care facilities. They are trapped,” said Stephen Cantelme, chief of Sacramento County’s Emergency Services. “I am much more confident in our levees holding up than I was 10 years ago. . . . But I am concerned 200-year [flood protection] is not enough.”

Posted in Shasta Auburn Dam

Local Homeless Efforts

We keep abreast of what local efforts are doing and it is clear that shelter strategies are currently in the forefront.

The one shelter strategy we support is the one based on the highly successful homeless transformation campus program in San Antonio, Texas, Haven for Hope—especially the courtyard strategy they use for safe rapid shelter for large numbers— adapted for Sacramento, which we did a press release on in 2015:

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release September 28, 2015 Sacramento, CA

Homeless Transformation Campus

A primary question many ask when discussing removing the homeless illegally camping in the Parkway is, “Where will they go?”

Our position has long been that our concern is with the devastation illegal camping has been causing to the Parkway, rather than determining the fate of the homeless when and if they are ever fully removed from the Parkway.

However, like everyone else, we suffer when thinking about the misery and destitution that is part of the fabric of living without a home; and over the past several weeks have developed a possible strategy, based on our practice of examining working models in use somewhere else, that will answer the question of where will they go.

Sacramento County could consider creating a homeless transformation campus capable of handling the majority of homeless in the County based on the model of Haven for Hope in San Antonio, Texas which is the largest and most comprehensive homeless transformation campus in the United States, providing residence to approximately 1,600 individuals on any given night.

The Haven for Hope campus is composed of fifteen buildings on 37 acres with almost five hundred thousand square feet of service space under roof.

The Sacramento location we suggest as capable of providing this level of service space is the Sacramento Army Depot, now known as Depot Park.

The various types of space available in Depot Park as of this writing (9/20/15) is:

Combined Warehouse—Workspace: 305,010 square feet (In several buildings, available immediately)

Warehouse — Workspace: 430,065 square feet (In several buildings, available immediately)

Office — Workspace: 68,269 square feet (In several buildings, available immediately)

Yard — Workspace: 3,000 square feet to 20 acres—paved and fenced

Proposed — Build to Suit: 500,850 square feet: Build to Suit Building

Retrieved September 20, 2015 from Depot Park

This is obviously more than enough space to accommodate the types of homeless services needed for a homeless transformation campus, including encouraging relocation to Depot Park two of the most important and largest homeless service organizations in Sacramento: Loaves and Fishes and Sacramento Steps Froward, as well as some of the programs providing residential service.

A perusal of the Haven for Hope website will provide more information about these specific strategies and we will be researching and presenting more information about this over the next several months.

Organizational Leadership
American River Parkway Preservation Society
Sacramento, California
September 28, 2015

Eye on Sacramento has also recently come out in support of Haven for Hope.

The point is, the homeless issue is not going away but getting worse and local communities, such as Sacramento, have to commit to a large-scale effort capable of dealing with it for the next few decades; which is exactly what Haven for Hope represents.

It is an expensive strategy, but Sacramento is already spending millions and scarcely making a dent, so looking at spending millions more, on a much better strategy like the proven success of the homeless transformation campus modeled by Haven for Hope, needs to be on the table and without overlooking the commitment of private philanthropy, which drove the Haven for Hope effort in San Antonio.

Posted in Homelessness

Southern California Homeless Problems Getting Worse

As reported in the Orange County Register, they are facing the same problems we are and these reports validate the need for communities to examine large scale solutions to the homeless problem.

In our area, a strategy needs to be applied to the Parkway as part of a larger strategy—capable of sheltering up to 2 or 3 thousand homeless a night—we suggest based on the Haven for Hope program—especially the courtyard strategy they use for safe rapid shelter for large numbers— in San Antonio adapted for Sacramento, see our news release of September 28, 2015 on our News Page.

An excerpt from the Register article.

For Andrea Tabor, running the Neighborhood Watch program at her 332-unit condominium complex means constant vigilance, mostly because of threats — real or otherwise — posed by the area’s homeless.

At 70, Tabor still works full time, but the neighborhood chores she describes sound like a second job.

Routinely, she said, she walks the ungated property in Anaheim, looking for signs of squatters. The e-mail list she updates goes out to some 150 people. She knows local cops by name.

She’s convinced authorities to fence off a railroad area near her complex as a way to keep away the homeless. She regularly urges nearby business owners to do what they can to drive away the homeless.

And, always, Tabor tells her neighbors to call police if they see or experience anything suspicious, particularly related to the homeless.

Tabor didn’t always feel such concern. She said she used to see homeless people and feel badly that they’d been displaced by economic change.

But as her community has become a spot where homeless routinely seek everything from refuge to a garbage dump to victims, her feelings have changed.

“It’s a nightmare,” Tabor said.

Saying she’s frustrated by rampant drug use and thefts and the physical threat she feels from the homeless, she added this:

The anger starts small and builds,” she said. “It really builds.”

That anger is spreading.

In communities as diverse as Upland and Santa Monica and Dana Point, neighborhoods throughout Southern California are being changed by the arrival of homeless encampments, an off-shoot of the region’s changing economy and spiking prices for homes and rental properties.  Long-time residents — even many who insist that they feel compassion for the homeless — are frustrated by living under the dual threats of violence and squalor-related health woes.

Property values are under siege. So is peace of mind. And as homelessness continues to grow throughout Southern California — and when some real steps have been taken to help the homeless — fear and anger are threatening to take the problem in a new, darker direction. …

‘Fed up for years’

Last year, in Anaheim, police took more than 15,000 homeless-related calls. Complaints echoed the calls that have been pouring in to police departments thorughout the region in recent years — thefts; open drug abuse; discarded hypodermic needles; aggressive panhandling; public defecation and urination; snarling dogs; feral cats; vagrants roaming aimlessly; unprovoked outbursts of anger.

Residents argue that criminals increasingly are hiding behind the cloak of homelessness as a way to prey on their communities. Some make a distinction between homeless people who need and want help and others who take advantage. But patience, generally speaking, is wearing thin.

Nancy Collins, who recently helped organize a neighborhood meeting with a councilman in Orange, said the bottom line is fear.

“This has gone from a compassion issue to a lawlessness issue,” Collins said.

 

Posted in Homelessness