Some of us are 100 percent down on having a transient population camping and hanging out around our cities. Some of us are 100 percent sympathetic with the campers. By far, most of us are a little of both (many of us understanding about the situation until the camping takes place in our own neighborhood).
Regardless, there’s a tendency to blame police when the homeless situation worsens.
The reality is, homelessness isn’t caused by law enforcement; and can’t be solved by it. The homeless, it has been adjudged, have a right to exist, a right to rest. Our officers can’t simply face them down and run them out. It’s not legal. And if there was any inclination by vigilantes to take that tack, we’d urge them stop and give the situation and their plans some deep thought:
– We now live in the age of cellphones, easy video and internet access. All interactions between anyone are liable to become evidence.
– More importantly, it’s not humane and not all homeless are causing a problem. The vast majority of homeless folks are not easily visible.
We can expect law enforcement to enforce the laws that apply to all of us ... trespassing on private property, creating environmental problems, defacing property, littering, being a public nuisance ... But we can’t expect them to make the situation go away.
Our communities have to be fully engaged and continuously working to change the situation. We doubt there’s a public official who’s awake to the world who wouldn’t list homelessness as one of their top few priority problems.
The unfortunate thing: It takes a month for the local transient population to grow 10-fold; it takes years to find the available funding and use it to develop services and infrastructure.
We recently published an update on local homeless conditions. Some items that reporter Rachel Rosenbaum supplied us in addition to what was earlier published:
– Recently, Sutter County was approved for a $365,000 grant to develop an emergency shelter currently planned for 1945 Live Oak Boulevard, where current bi-county Behavioral Health is located. It hopes to receive the money soon.
The shelter would serve up to 40 homeless people, giving them a place to rest and get assistance from social service case workers, according to Appeal-Democrat archives.
There is some pushback by residents of the neighborhood. We can’t say we blame them. But a resolution must be quickly conjured by supervisors.
– “This is a situation that every community in California is dealing with,” Sutter County public information officer Chuck Smith reminded us. “And there isn’t a solution that’s been identified that is really effective; there isn’t a solution that is quick, that’s non-controversial.”
– Smith pointed to other regional efforts to address an underlying factor of homelessness: lack of affordable housing. The Regional Housing Authority is currently seeking funding for a 40-unit housing project in Yuba City, near Richland Housing on Garden Highway, for homeless and those with behavioral health issues. The Yuba City City Council approved a portion of the $850,000 loan request, and the Authority is applying for federal low-income housing tax credits through the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, according to archives. And $3 million in state funds is expected to be routed through the bi-county homeless consortium for homelessness services – the most local counties have received in state funding for the issue.
– Officials say the emergency shelter will only help a small portion of people and is a tool, but not necessarily a solution.
“I don’t think there’s anybody who believes the emergency shelter will solve the problem,” Smith said. “We’re going to be looking at additional steps. In California, the big issue is affordable housing.”
– Especially with an influx of Camp Fire survivors coming into the Yuba-Sutter community, county officials are seeing more people unsheltered and a tighter housing market.
“It’s a whole different dynamic over the last six months now,” said Yuba County public information officer Russ Brown. “It’s pervasive and the homeless problem has not gone away.”
And it will likely never go away. We’ll either figure out how to live well with them, or we’ll live badly with them. It’s our problem to deal with.
Our View editorials represent the opinion of the Appeal-Democrat and its editorial board and are edited by the publisher and/or editor. Members of the editorial board include: Publisher Glenn Stifflemire and Editor Steve Miller.