“Given the significant dollars spent to address homelessness, this lack of accountability is problematic and can undermine the public’s confidence in our public agencies.” Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury, June, 2022
It was only last year that Stanislaus County added “accountability” to its plan for reducing regional homelessness. The new measure was intended to hold homeless people more accountable for being homeless.
Released this June, in yet another of too many ironies to count regarding government failures on homelessness, the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury Report of 2021-2022 found that “accountability is lacking,” not among the homeless, but as a result of the myriad government agencies, nonprofits, churches, charities and private organizations focused on ending homelessness in Stanislaus County.
The Grand Jury’s conclusion that attempts to reduce homelessness have failed wasn’t news to anyone still relying on the evidence of their senses. Burgeoning homeless numbers are visible everywhere in the form of bodies on the sidewalks, along freeway margins, and prone in local parks.
However, while no one with eyes and ears needs to know that homeless numbers have continued to grow, the great value of the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury Report (SCCGJ) is in its finding that there are,
…. dozens of public agencies, private organizations, and non-profits working in this arena. It is hard to evaluate coordination, effectiveness, and accountability when efforts are so fragmented. The SCCGJ found that while efforts to coordinate all these agencies and their activities are being pursued, accountability is lacking. Given the significant dollars spent to address homelessness, this lack of accountability is problematic and can undermine the public’s confidence in our public agencies.
Anyone working on the ground with homeless people in need of help would add that not only is there a “lack of accountability,” there is also a lack of candor about why homeless numbers continue to grow.
Consider, for example, just one segment of the homeless population, the mentally ill. Salvation Army Major Harold Laubach recently estimated that forty percent of the residents of Stanislaus County’s Low Barrier Shelter are mentally ill. He added that another forty percent deal with “substance abuse problems.”
Laubach noted that given the absence of alternatives, homeless shelters were a better option than homelessness itself. The vast majority of homeless people, ill or not, disagree. The evidence is in the ongoing availability of beds in local shelters.
Though they were never designed for such purposes, today’s shelters now serve dual roles as mental institutions and warehouses for drug users in search of help. Staff at the shelters lack training to deal with such problems while shortages of infrastructure and services prevent timely transition to more appropriate venues. No wonder so many people avoid traditional shelters.
The plain fact is that our homeless crisis is actually a housing and care crisis, and not necessarily even an “affordable housing” crisis, insofar as no housing is affordable for people without incomes or the ability to earn them. And even though a great many homeless people do have incomes — often as a result of disabilities or retirement — those incomes are far too little to afford traditional housing options.
Those who might benefit from traditional housing options include workers in fast food, Amazon warehouses, and other jobs that pay too little to meet today’s housing costs. However, those traditional housing options — apartments and studios — would have to be constructed so that rents would be far lower than today’s averages. Given mounting costs of construction and building fees, it’s improbable we’ll have such options any time soon. Meanwhile, people with insufficient incomes for traditional housing options are living in their cars.
These hard facts about homelessness would ordinarily mean we have a humanitarian crisis brought about by insufficient housing and services to accommodate peoples’ needs for health care, shelter, including toilets and running water, and community services such as trash and garbage disposal. Instead, we have “homelessness” and debates about its causes, almost none of which acknowledge the central problem is fellow citizens in dire need of urgent care.
The SCCGJ did not note that political leaders benefit from lack of accountability and won’t be eager to accept responsibility of any kind. They much prefer the fog of a fragmented, inefficient, and dysfunctional system to having to answer for their failures. Positive change won’t happen as long as the same players continue to dominate access to revenue streams while squandering resources and avoiding meaningful action in favor of cruel indifference to human suffering.
John Gunderson says
Two high schools and the ROP program director for MCS expressed interest in constructing micro shelters to be situated in enclaves. State has acquiesced on this approach and Redding has implemented it along with many other communities in the north west. Supervisors Withrow and Condit along with Councilman Ricci attended a meeting at Downey HS to discuss this option last summer. Nothing happened afterwards.
Eric Caine says
No surprise that “Nothing happened afterwards.” Our elected leaders are great at showing up to events that go nowhere. It’s what they do. And fundraising.
Ally Best says
“Our elected leaders are great at showing up to events that go nowhere. It’s what they do. And fundraising.”
There is part of the problem – us. Stop electing the same imitation leaders – there must be others who will do the jobs they are elected to do.
Heck yeah 1000% and this would definitely definitely work great for all of us HOUSELESS PEOPLE AND THEIR FURBABIES (a.k.a. dogs and emotions support animals and guard dogs) hell yeah
No one cares anymore. I came here to visit family on vacation. My truck was stolen from me and been I was from out of state no one seem to care. I bought a truck to get home and it ended up being stolen lost everything and my babies which are my dogs to much to get them out as I am on a set income your state is crazy. Come to Stanislaus county on vacation leave on probation. That’s a shame people can’t get help from your county in their left homeless alone alongside freeway until they save the money to get home I have to leave on probation. Thank you for your time I will never return to Stanislaus county as long as I live family or not.
So sorry to hear this and I will definitely say a prayer for you, that you get a way home and hope nothing else happens to you again .
LOU VALERO says
PROTESTERS THREATEN LA LAW MAKERS DURING VOTE HAVING TO DO WITH BANNING THE HOMELESS FROM ENCAMPING IN VICINITY OF CERTAIN INSTITUTIONS…
ADVOCATES AND THE HOUSELESS ARE GROWING DESPERATE.
The last paragraph sums it up. This is not a homeless problem. Homelessness is but a symptom, a resulting conclusion, to all that which is so lacking. For all the people that see homeless people as a problem, I pray for you everyday that you find the willingness to gain insight into homelessness. Think about it. Are you really angry at someone who has their hygiene and nutrition not a priority? Angry at someone who is not able to manage their serious mental illness or substance abuse problem? Their chronic health problems in general?
Does it not make you angry that your greatest solution to the problem is the police because shelters are over crowded or on lockdown because of Covid? If that’s all your reducing the solutions to, then You are the problem.
Ron Bridegroom says
With respect, what shelters are on lockdown due to COVID? Where I live the shelters have available beds every night and we have an emergency shelter that we can open within 24 hours if the need arises but since that option became available 1.5 years ago it has never been needed.
Eric Caine says
Mr. Bridegroom: If a business had a store that no one wanted to visit, the business would change its business plan. We have shelters homeless people don’t want to use, yet we continue to offer them as the only option. How is this a good use of resources?
Bruce Frohman says
Quite a bit of anger is on display in the above comments. How can the anger be channeled into positive results?
We will never eliminate all homelessness. Every time one person is placed, another loses his home. We can analyze in perpetuity. We can have countless meeting to discuss. Meetings without actions produce nothing. Each meeting should conclude with action items or they are a waste of time.
Politicians might not be able to see the reward in addressing a problem that will never go away. Hence, they don’t try.
Or, if they do try, the effort is never good enough. So, then they stop trying, preferring to solve easy problems instead.
What might be useful is to compare the number of placements this past year vs. the number of homeless found in the annual count.
If we set a goal of increasing annual placements, at some point, placements will exceed incoming and the annual homeless count will start dropping.
Someone holding elective office should have this figured out.
Eric Caine says
Bruce: At present, there are too few places to put people. The remedy is permitted camping on safe ground and transitional housing options like Pallet Shelters and Conestoga Huts. We need to recognize we have a humanitarian crisis and act accordingly.
Interesting how accountability works; seems to be a downward structure: I’m above you therefore you’re accountable to me but you can’t hold me accountable!! This is very apparent in the relationship of our supervisors to the homeless!! Homeless accountability is actually a part of their homeless planning.
Now going up the structure, not that I’m homeless, but guess I’m not in the right pecking other to get a response to several informal queries I’ve made such as: can I get a copy of the procedures that are used to discipline clients in the low barrier shelter; can we get a copy of budget procedures used to manage the county’s surplus budget; can the public start getting public reports on various aspects of the homeless system of care? After many weeks now I haven’t even gotten the courtesy of a reply! So, will now enter the formal chain and make my requests public by copying agency clerks on all requests and/or speak at meetings. I still may not get responses but at least anyone interested in officials’ accountability can view responses when made.
On another note, heard of a case yesterday where a family of 5 was living in their car and for whatever reason it was towed away! Of course most anyone living in a vehicle won’t be able to afford the abhorrent fees charged for towing and storage!! My understanding is that that these fees are set by both cities and counties who receive a portion into their revenue stream!! To me, it’s just plain cruel to not have exemptions for people living in their cars. In this case, thankfully help was provided to them for a motel stay. Maybe the city or county as appropriate should be billed, as they could have avoided the loss of the vehicle!!
Frank, I am always appreciative of your zeal.
Utmost cruelty, temperatures this week as high as 105°-106° with temperatures in the shade 2° lower, if that.
No one can stay inside a car, especially a family of 5, during the afternoons and early evenings. So as they seek out, for sake of sheer survival, lowered temperatures that they may not, literally, cook alive in, they must leave their vehicle. Authorities then swoop in as vultures
These conditions people are facing are brutal, and the authorities heartless.
There is no other possible conclusion to arrive at.
The impact on people living without shelter is devastating. Are local temporary shelters still forcing the houseless out into the streets during the daytime?
If they are, I do not know how they can stand idly by such horrid decisions. Including, especially, those who do so in the name of Messiah, using his name in vain.
So even they will not produce a written explanation of their own disciplinary actions?
How are those disciplined to know where the line of demarcation is drawn? Messiah drew a line in the sand. Messiah said to go, and make disciples, not, go, and discipline the non-discipled.
Discipline is defined in dictionaries as training up in the way one should go, not, physical type punishment, amounting to “keep out” status: meaning, wander around seeking make-shift cover.
These temporary shelters must transparently reveal their ways, for the public to decide if it wants to fund such. Is this where the bottleneck exists? I am willing to step out on a limb and assume their funding sources were provided a written document when asked for, unless funding sources are so lax they fund these temporary shelters without assuring all accountability boxes are checked and adhered to.
Freedom of Information inquiries can even expose written communications by people or groups who oppose the locations being considered as safe ground. The San Jose Spotlight newsletter (easily found online) has numerous articles about what has transpired on issues concerning local homelessness safe ground such as a certain housing developer who inserted his self interest where it did not belong. All articles make for interesting reading about a forward moving City Council not always in agreement yet making many inroads.
Ron Bridegroom says
With respect, where I live we have two cooling areas, the library and the transit center. I know that at the transit center they have restrooms and water fountains. In talking with our Deputy City Manager she expressed concern that not many individuals take advantage of this. I also know that our Police CARE team tries very hard to work with people in their situations.
Al Lucchesi says
I believe one way to make elected people respond to homeless issue is to have a RECALL Election of the elected not responding to homeless issue but they need to respond with housing for the homeless. If no response they get on Recall ballot.
Bruce Frohman says
If you have a recall, you need to have someone to replace the recalled person who will actually do something.
Absent severe crimes, recalling any elected official is very difficult.
What typically happens with any problem is it gets worse until it is so bad that large numbers start demanding action. So far, we only have a small pool of concerned citizens voicing our displeasure.
Ron Bridegroom says
I know from personal experience how difficult it is to recall a council member. We had a “small pool of concerned citizens” and even so if it was not for COVID restrictions we were on the path to getting enough signatures to force a special recall election. You are correct that you need someone to fill the spot. I suspect the rules in Modesto are the same. First you must get enough signatures, then you have a special election to determine if the council member is recalled and if you are successful in that they have another special election to select the new council member
Maybe elect a homeless person . not a joje either. Of course pre drug screen and what e wr yo feel for. If you’ve never been there your not going you understand how to fix it.