In order to end homelessness in Stanislaus County, all available resources need to be integrated. A homeless person has the right to refuse service, but does not have the right to receive service if he refuses to cooperate.
Someone needs to be appointed coordinator for resources to serve the homeless. The coordinator will need to inventory all available services within Stanislaus County. The coordinator can be in the public or private sector. A private sector coordinator can provide maximum flexibility due to the lack of bureaucratic and legal requirements for delivering service.
Once a comprehensive list of providers in the public and private sectors is established, the coordinator will need to contact every service provider and gain cooperation in coordinating services. Because of a diversity of philosophies and policies among providers, complete cooperation will be difficult to achieve. However, the greater the level of cooperation among all the providers, the more effective the program will be.
Once agreements to coordinate services have been reached, service delivery can begin to address the homeless problem. Public social workers and skilled sociologists in the private sector need to reach out to homeless people to make needs assessments, treating each individual as a person with unique problems.
Once an individual assessment is complete, referrals can be made to the appropriate service providers. Referrals should be made conditionally. That is, the homeless person must agree to engage only in activities that will enable him or her to return to society as a productive member.
Any homeless person who refuses to cooperate or participate in programs prescribed for his unique problems should be denied access to all public and private assistance to the extent that the law allows. In addition, all available police powers should be used to deny individuals opportunities for activities detrimental to themselves and the community at large.
Periodically, a census is taken of the number of homeless people in Stanislaus County. While the exact number of homeless isn’t easy to measure, the success of the program can be determined when there is a decline in the homeless population.
Given the nature of homelessness, some who have received assistance will backslide. This group may need to reenter the program, but should be served only if they adhere to program rules.
The absence of any assistance at all should compel homeless people to cooperate with rules established by the coordinator. The only other option of a non-cooperative homeless person would be to commit a crime to fulfill his needs, which would result in arrest and incarceration, but incarceration should only be used as a last resort. Jail should not be where homeless people go to have their needs met.
Undoubtedly, Stanislaus County will always have some homeless individuals. However, an effectively run program fully integrated among service providers can serve to minimize the size of the homeless population.