Early last year, Stanislaus County officials added accountability to their list of tactics for managing rising numbers of people with nowhere to go.
Puzzled by the new standard, volunteer and homeless advocate Frank Ploof asked county management and staff members repeatedly, “Accountable for what?” None ever offered an answer that made sense to people with no means to be accountable.
Despite repetitious memes about people “choosing” homelessness and the widespread chorus of, “It’s the drugs,” facts and statistics show that economic factors are the most significant forces in driving homeless numbers upward. Other causes include mental illness and physical and mental disabilities.
For example, 15,485 low-income residents of Stanislaus County do not have access to affordable homes. Another 76% pay more than half their incomes for rent. Statistics like these may be among the reasons that Stanislaus County ranks number 1 in homelessness per capita for the entire San Joaquin Valley.
According to Salvation Army Major Harold Laubach, forty percent of the residents of Stanislaus County’s low barrier homeless shelter are mentally ill. Because the shelter is ill equipped to administer to these residents, some are routinely evicted for rules violations or other reasons. One such person, Willie “Turtle” Green, has been back on the streets for months, after spending over two years in the shelter waiting for housing.
Green’s case is not atypical. A recent study by the Fresno County Grand Jury concluded that,
“Homelessness is a dynamic and complicated issue that requires a comprehensive, coordinated approach to create long-term sustainable solutions. Unfortunately, a ‘crib sheet’ is required to keep track of all the governmental and nonprofit entities working to resolve this challenge locally.”
Like Fresno County’s, Stanislaus County’s systems of care are a maze of disconnected public, non-profit, and volunteer entities — overburdened, understaffed, and nearly impossible to navigate. Again, conclusions by the Fresno County Grand Jury are equally applicable to Stanislaus County:
“…. duplicative and sometimes overlapping roles, fuzzy lines of authority, and a myriad of often-competing initiatives make it difficult to measure the effectiveness of the actions initiated to address homelessness in Fresno County. As a result, the City of Fresno and County of Fresno’s current efforts lack coordination and threaten the very objective to be achieved: eliminating, or greatly reducing, homelessness.”
The numbers show Stanislaus County’s strategies for addressing homelessness are far less effective even than Fresno’s. With a population of 1,013, 400 people, Fresno’s 2020 Point in Time homeless count was 3,641. With just a little over half as many county residents, Stanislaus County’s 2021 homeless count was 2927.
Homelessness isn’t the only measure showing poor management and supervision in Stanislaus County, where Covid deaths per capita are the worst in the entire San Joaquin Valley.
Shuffling responsibility onto the shoulders of the poor and afflicted isn’t just ineffective, it’s also cruel. Stanislaus County officials would better serve their constituents by taking an honest look at the manifold deficiencies in their systems of care.
Economics, it is about economics! Simply put, in the US and I’m sure many other countries if: You can’t pay the rent, or your support system can’t pay the rent or house you, or the government can’t help, then you become homeless!
All the other stuff we hear about like drugs, mental health, etc. may be underlying factors but not the reason.
Is this you, Frank Ploof? I thought of you, and those you volunteer with, while watching the following documentary, tonight:
Homelessness in Germany – What if you can’t afford a home? | DW Documentary
Anyone interested in viewing the above cited documentary, watch through to the end.
“Housing First” has become an accepted model to implement because the price of permanent housing (rentals) over temporary housing (shelters, etcetera) is much less expensive, in the long run. Helsinki, Finland is experiencing success utilizing “Housing First”.
Helsinki views the lack of housing for all individuals a “Human Rights” problem. Stanislaus County officials need to see the lack of housing for all as a “Human Rights Crisis.”
NOTHING, EVEN REMOTELY, CAN GET IN THE WAY OF THIS CRITICAL NEED TO PERMANENTLY HOUSE ALL, AS TOP PRIORITY. NUMERO UNO! PRONTO!
Ally Best says
I pay 73.5% of my income for rent. I have a homeless son who has been trying to get housing for almost 2 years. He is not chemically dependent and has a job. He can afford rent, but when “they” see he is currently homeless they automatically reject his application. The agencies and programs that are supposed to help are a joke. I wonder how much longer he will be able to keep trying and applying with no results. And no hope. Sad. Very sad.
Yes! Poverty is devastating for people, pets and community. I have a homeless senior friend who was turned out of his rental due to death of landlord. He has little income tho he works hard at odd jobs, and a bunch of pets, and will soon have to leave where he is now. He’s a creaky senior who needs housing help. Where is the help?
Eric Caine says
Good question Augusta. You are not the only one asking, “Where is the help?” Nonetheless, virtually ever report about homelessness includes the statement, “And then connect them to services.” What services? Many residents of the low-barrier shelter have been there since it opened. Many others have been kicked out for any number of violations of rules which couldn’t be followed by the mentally ill and physically disabled in any case. We need to call out these farcical notions about “services.”
CHRIS MURPHY says
Good article Frank. Curious to where we are now, years after Focus On Prevention was created, compared to then? It doesn’t appear we have made much progress on the mental health cases and issues. Are there any stats? On a different thought, if we had authorized camping areas (as they are planning authorized parking ares), could those camp sites be equipped with PO Boxes so that each “resident” would have a place for mail, job application responses, and a targeted area for social service providers? Seems to make sense to me. Why wouldn’t this work?
CHRIS MURPHY says
Oops. Sorry Eric Caine is author.
Eric Caine says
Chris Murphy: Homeless numbers are roughly double today as when “Focus on Prevention” launched in 2015. Current totals don’t include a significant percentage of people living in cars, a growing factor in homelessness that is only going to get worse.
CHRIS MURPHY says
Curious on the mental health designation. This seems to be what rises to the top in the pubic eye where issues come up. Have we made any progress here? It doesn’t seem like there have been any solutions here as most of the mental support facilities are full. Trying to wrap my head around what has been accomplished.
Eric Caine says
Chris Murphy: There are hundreds of mentally ill homeless people in Stanislaus County. Hundreds. Yet local leaders talk only about drugs and alcohol when they talk at all. They would rather avoid the problem and count on a public who reads “and connect them to services” and believes it. Services are insufficient and we have no place to put homeless people. We had a model in MOES and abandoned it. As Bruce Frohman says, we need new leadership.
Richard Anderson says
There is obviously such complete failure of the Focus on Prevention county effort. But there are a few who have successfully escaped the jaws of homelessness due to the county/city efforts.
I am not a Polyanna. But I do think that if we study people like Chuck and Deanna (below) we can see what actually did work for this couple who were previously homeless tweakers.
Eric invited me to shoot the video of his interview with Chuck and Deanna. They tell the story of how moving to MOES actually provided what this couple needed for them to pull themselves out of homelessness. The needed formula?
MOES + the access center there + Dean Dodd + Seargent Hammond + Red Cloud + Christine Kenny + Chuck’s homeless mother in the MOES tent next door to them + the Downtown Street Team + the Berberian Salvation Army = both of them are now employed. Chuck in the Low Barrier Shelter and Deanna now is working in the traditional Salvation Army program. Their lived experience is helping them help others.
20 minutes: https://youtu.be/fr7Gjepu2Ek
I believe I attended one of the very first meetings, if not the very first meeting, at the Modesto Senior Citizen’s Center, at Scenic and Bodem on the topic of Homelessness.
From my read of that room’s occupants, those who spoke up were expressing their desire to get rid of the homeless from out of the parks. I did not hear a single person express any concern for the homeless themselves. I heard such notions as making being in the parks illegal to the unhoused. I listened, taking copious notes.
Perhaps that is why “Focus on Prevention” sizzled out. It never had any real passion for the homeless, merely passion to get them out of the parks and the parents off of their backs. Other than that, the parents seemed to be without a single care in the world as to what would happen to the unhoused once removed out of the parks. That was entirely someone else’s concern, not theirs. I felt for the parents, but only so far as it was legitimate and logical to do so. I needed to know what the real drivers were for the meeting. Authorities who spoke seemed to have to qualms about appeasing the attendees, not the unhoused.
When I attended “Focus on Prevention” I was extremely disappointed in the way the meetings were headed. Though I will not say I was surprised, cuz, I was not… Let me qualify what I mean, by adding, the “Focus on Prevention” was headed nowhere fast. The meetings were tedious: slow, dull and monotonous. Who ever was in charge certainly did not know how to get the attendees brainstorming.
If anything, I think the meetings were being controlled by people who wanted things to go a certain way, with a certain outcome. Seven long, arduous, years later, for those still houseless, and the hundreds, if not thousands, added to the rank, since, there can be no mistaking the outcome those in charge of “Focus on Prevention” had in mind.
Please do not misconstrue what I said, I met some truly sincere, truly concerned citizens who willingly wanted houseless individuals/families permanently housed, easily, without hesitation, reluctance, delay or difficulty. Then their were those others: reserved, calculating, pulling back on the reigns, without any real clue as to what it would take to bring, free from pretense or deceit, goals into fruition. They seemed only to know how to stall…
It appeared that the meetings were thrown together merely to appease the parents who wanted the parks all to their very own families. The very parks that belong to all citizens, not only parents. I believe the “prevention” in Focus on Prevention was on preventing the unhoused from sharing use of their own parks. The “focus” was on casting a thin veneer of looking busy and concerned, while merely twiddling their thumbs and pencils for as long as they could get away with. Times up…
Dear Almighty God, and Valley Citizens, I want to be wrong about imputing wrong motives on Stanislaus county and city officials who have thus far done so little for our unhoused citizens. Abba God, I want them to show the rest of us citizens that they are morally and ethically sound officers of government, that intend to make just decisions immediately, if not sooner…
Mary B says
Whenever I attempt to explain the underlying issues about homelessness ( which pretty much follows what Eric Caine has written ) I get piled on by all the ones I call the “blamers” ….ie, it’s the homeless themselves , they want to do drugs, get drunk , they like the life on the streets cause they get all the “ freebies” and handouts . While untreated mental illness and substance abuse initially caused homelessness, now it is a majority of honest people who are getting priced out to the fringes of society through no fault of their own.
I’ve traveled up and down the I-5 corridor on the west coast and I see many senior citizen homeless at the rest stops in CA. In OR, the homeless comprise all age groups at the rest stops. I’ve seen homeless walk along the freeway in Willamette valley. I’ve seen homeless pushing shopping carts along deserted stretches of Hwy 108 way up in the Sierras. I found a homeless encampment past the timber line ( over 10k ft elevation) . These are just examples of what I’ve seen over the years.
When I try to tell others about this, they don’t want to hear it at all. It gets quite hostile sometimes. It’s so much easier to blame the victims than to do the hard work of thinking and doing something about the problem.
Look up Brazil’s favelas to know our probable future. It’s what will happen if we can’t turn our homeless problem around.
Lou Valero says
As you know, but perhaps others do not, a favela is a type of slum in Brazil that has experienced historical governmental neglect. I believe one of the points you want to highlight is the “historical governmental neglect.” I want to highlight that the typical favela has poor infrastructure, leading to difficulties in electricity and plumbing.
Stanislaus County and the City of Modesto government, have historically neglected their houseless/homeless, in all probability, worse than Brazil has, in that they have not even governed well enough to have created enough infrastructure that has electricity and plumbing. Locally what is called a Shelter in no way offers any semblance of ability to have one’s own living space with facilities to cook and enjoy significant privacy. Some models did work better than others, and currently some are working better than others. Government can do a lot better than buying up old motels to provide rooms to share.
Our county and city officials have utterly failed to provide all (not only some) of its citizens any semblance of domicile: a place one can treat as their permanent home, or at the very least a place to live in and have a substantial connection with where privacy and quiet enjoyment can exist.
Yet, local government pats themselves on the back for razing more orchards and farmland to provide only the wealthier minority expensive houses in which to dwell, while substantially IGNORING THEIR RESPONSIBILITY to house all trying to survive in the community. It is no excuse to think that every community has their homeless, so why not us? Or, that we are doing all we can, under the circumstances. We are not doing all we can to eradicate our self-centered ways of living, that excludes others from living in a decent, habitable home.
I am in no way suggesting that the houseless/homeless should ignore their own needs and settle for living in a favela. YET, I can imagine that the houseless living out on the streets in the cold, windy, rain or hot sun would count living in a favela as an upgrade in their current living conditions. It depends on perspectives and real live experiences.
LOSS OF FACE HAS HAPPENED TO OUR LOCAL GOVERNMENT FOR THE LITTLE THAT THEY DO FOR THE NEEDIEST AMONG US. LOCAL GOVERNMENT HAS PROVEN TIME AND TIME AGAIN THAT IT IS UP TO US TO CONSISTENTLY GOAD OUR STUBBORN GOVERNMENT INTO DEVELOPING HOUSING CAPABLE OF BEING RENTED ON A SLIDING-FEE SCALE, OR FOR FREE WHEN NEED BE. THIS TYPE OF HOUSING ASSURES AFFORDABILITY, AS PEOPLE CAN ONLY APPLY WHEN INCOME IS BELOW A CERTAIN THRESHOLD, AND THEREAFTER YEARLY CERTIFICATION SETS THE FEE FOR MONTHLY RENT DEPENDING ON INCOME.
I PERSONALLY LIVED IN SUCH A HOUSING COMPLEX LOCATED ON ROLLING HILLS COVERED WITH MATURE TREES, WITH SUBSTANTIAL LAND BETWEEN ONE, TWO AND THREE BEDROOM UNITS, MULTIPLE PLAYGROUNDS, AMPLE PARKING, WALKING DISTANCE TO DOWNTOWN, NOT A FOOD DESERT. I PAID LESS THAN TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS PER MONTH FOR A THREE BEDROOM, TWO BATH, UTILITIES INCLUDED, FOR AS LONG AS I NEEDED TO LIVE THERE WITH MY FAMILY. AS MY INCOME IMPROVED, MY RENT INCREASED ONCE PER YEAR, UNTIL I REACHED THE FAIR RENTAL VALUE RENT CAP. I AM NOT SPEAKING OF SECTION-8 OR “PROJECT-TYPE” HIGH-RISES.
THIS IS THE YEAR TWENTY-TWENTY TWO, AND WE OUGHT TO HAVE LEARNED FROM SOCIETY’S PAST MISTAKES. THERE HAS TO BE THE WILL TO EQUALLY PROVIDE DIGNITY TO ALL. THE TYPE OF HOUSING TO ENVISION IS HOUSING THAT ANYONE WOULD WOULD BE WILLING TO LIVE IN. THIS HAVE AND HAVE NOT BULL HAS TO GO. THINK COLLECTIVELY, NOT INDIVIDUALISTICALLY. THERE IS INTENTIONAL HOUSING, COOPERATIVE HOUSING, TINY HOUSING, ETCETERA, TO RENT OR TO OWN. WE MUST BE ABLE TO BRAINSTORM OUR WAY OUTSIDE OF OLDER MODELS OF HOUSING. THERE IS NOT ENOUGH LAND OR RESOURCES TO BE SELFISH. IT HAS BEEN TIME TO CHANGE OUR WAYS.
Kimberly Stout says
I fully agree stan,county won’t address the homeless ,they say they are trying to get controlled of it but when it comes down to it they do notheing to fix it .as the same for Turlock gossible they puck and choose who they put a hand out to.hows that fair to all in need. They all have their hands out for the money but when asked about where the funds went .things change hands new people step up spit out the same bull shit and the vishious cycle go’s around again. And as for the ones out their on drugs .you ever stop and thought about their lives lived day to day night by night .I know what it is like out their ive walked in those shoes and let me tell you I went thru a lot of shoes .it’s not an easy life and drugs just make you numb to every day life of just getting by. If you took say 25 to 50 people out of the streets set them up with a good environment to get straight mind you it takes a mind to adjust to having a place to be cause their so consumed with being out their that’s all they know at that time but they realize they don’t need to be consumed by that any more because people In the streets stay closer because they are the same to each other like family more so then most of our own family .but they change if given the chance.and their are the ones who choose to be their only they know why But when you are out their With notheing or any one thing change. I don’t care what walk of life you come from. But it doesn’t happen over night and it doesn’t fix it thru a 30,90,or 120 day program .all that does is set them up for failure .cause after the doors close where they at standing in the streets alone no structure no walls. And no one with book pamphlet or court order telling them to just keep the meeting up check in or notheing .
Hope you understand what I’m saying .stanislaus county sucks. And exp Turlock if they address the issue then they have to acknowledge that their is a problem. If they actually took part in helping things could be better they say they help but the homeless doesn’t see the help. I could keep going on. And the none profit org. Are just as big as a joke as the rest . Does any one know that Turlock Homeless are left with out a public restroom no showers no place to even wash their hands during the day let alone night .public parks are locked up can’t use the park to flush your body in a toilet or just with clean water. And as for giving them a warm meal only who they pick and choose gets a good dinner. Most of it is gov,comedies you know the box’s they give once a month.but we eat right. Or old bread dry hard or most of the time specks of mold, but then again they pick and choose who gets the good stuff .and homeless don’t matter they can have ways left or they can leave it but with no other choices . So unless the gov,government, in and puts down some guidelines that doesn’t mean say hear its your to deal with now deal with it your way . Their will never be hope for any homeless person family, or animal in Turlock ca,Stanislaus Co. People need to open their eyes and help open the doors to help the homeless. Because their are no open doors hear. And being on drugs doesn’t make that person any different then the one who isn’t on the.. just means they been out their longer.
Bruce Frohman says
The most frustrating aspect of the entire discussion is those that have the power to do something won’t. They just take up space in elected office. I will not be endorsing any incumbent in the next election.
Viable solutions have been suggested in Valley Citizen articles. We know these articles have been seen. So, if the politicians won’t become serious about homelessness, let’s make them jobless next election.
Lou Valero says
I HEAR YOU, BRUCE, AND I AM WITH YOU BRUCE. YOU CAN COUNT ON MY COOPERATION.
Lou Valero says
I hear you Kimberly Stout. I want so much for the rest of the Valley Citizens to hear you, also. I apologize to you that the current elected officials are as they are. They get paid for doing less than expected of them. This is not in compliance to the goodwill we expect of them. They do not know what it means to prioritize in order to save lives. Or should I say, they know what it means to prioritize, but they choose to save their own lives, over those of the neediest among us. In my worldview, any termed “leaders” are to FIRST prove themselves by placing themselves last, behind all the others’ needs to be met. THEN being recognized for their humility they are entrusted as significantly wise.
We The People have thus far fallen short because we have not coordinated together in a corporate body of citizens who voice the following CLARION CALL :
“We are fully aware of the substantial waste that has gone on toward paying those
(whose offices and meeting spaces are located at Tenth Street Place, in Modesto,
California, and scattered throughout Stanislaus County) who idly fill their days,
carelessly spending tax payers money to pleasure their wealthier constituents’
PREFERENCES, over the NEEDS OF SURVIVAL of the poorest souls scattered
throughout the very same county. As a consequence, for these EXACTING reasons,
we will be pulling the 6th floor out from under each and every elected official who
continues to prove themselves unworthy of their official title. It is our (We The
People’s) task to be vigilant watchers of HOW ALL FUNDS are distributed. As of this
date, February 3, 2022, the line of demarcation has been drawn, and the demand
Valley Citizens willing to add their name to this demand can do so simply by including merely your name below, in reply to this written warning. Not adding your name does not in any way exclude you from taking part in this clarion call set forth. WATCH and VOTE or NOT VOTE, which is how you will ultimately be counted on.