Most everyone was encouraged when the Modesto City Council approved $250,000 toward establishing a services and shelter center for our growing population of homeless people. The first stage will include temporary winter shelters (in the form of modified garden sheds) for forty people as part of Stanislaus County’s Focus on Prevention project to end homelessness.
Ultimately, city and county officials intend to establish a one-stop service center where people experiencing homelessness can access help and find places to live. Meanwhile, the vast majority the county’s homeless population faces the grim prospect of another winter outside.
A recent census showed at least a thousand homeless people in Modesto alone. Modesto’s two homeless shelters, the Modesto Gospel Mission and the Salvation Army Haig/Berberian building, together have beds for only 235 people. And since the recent survey, sweeps along the Tuolumne River have displaced many more homeless people from their camps. Most have moved into Modesto.
Newly-elected Modesto City Councilmember Kristi Ah You fully supports current efforts to shelter homeless people but thinks we can be more pragmatic and effective by taking advantage of available space.
“There are already homeless people in places like Beard Brook Park, which isn’t near people’s houses and is away from downtown business,” said Ah You recently. “We should suspend the ordinances against camping, at least in Beard Brook, so homeless people have a place to go. It doesn’t make sense to keep jailing them and moving them from place to place.”
Ah You has a point. Last winter, over thirty tents appeared in Beard Brook before police came in and forced homeless people to take them down. Those who weren’t present during the sweep lost their possessions, and everyone had to move out. The net effect? Most everyone moved to another park or neighborhood, then slowly trickled back to Beard Brook. There was nowhere else to go.
Some homeless people were arrested and jailed. As a rule, such arrests involve outstanding warrants or citations for misdemeanors. The “criminals” then go through our court system, serve a few weeks in jail, and return to the park. The arrests and subsequent incarceration cost thousands of dollars, which may as well be cut into pieces and tossed to the wind, given the futility of the expense.
Like Councilmember Ah You, many people wonder why we can’t take advantage of available empty space and empty buildings to house more homeless people, at least during the winter, when the likelihood rises that many will get sick and wind up in our emergency rooms on the way to an extended stay in the hospital.
Last winter, well over fifty homeless people had found shelter in Beard Brook Park before authorities moved them out. Given the potential to shelter four or five times that many people for far less than the money it will cost to put forty people into garden sheds, city and county officials should begin giving serious thought to more cost-effective approaches to homelessness, however temporary.
As it is, those homeless people who aren’t arrested and incarcerated at great public expense are forced to move off the streets and out of the parks. With no place else to go, they usually wind up in back our neighborhoods. There’s got to be a better way.
Making provisions for them makes more sense than allowing them to live in every park in the area. Leaving their used needles & condoms all over our parks prohibit families & children from using the parks.
Eric Caine says
Agreed. Much better to have a place to go. Easier also to supervise.
Top Dog says
This is a terrible idea- there are no restrooms or running water at Beardbrook Park since these folks have stolen all the wiring for the equipment. Now they use the park as a restroom; not to mention the fact that the city parks department and volunteers have spent countless cleaning up after the camping activity- tons and tons of garbage. How about if the city lets the homeless camp in the parking garage at 1010th street? Then they’ll see the blight and illicit activities that go along with letting people camp in public places. Church in the Park is also a really bad idea- no permit- no accountability- no cleaning up afterwards. Churches should let the homeless camp inside their churches or at least outside of their churches- but we all know why they do not- blight, illicit activity, filth. Besides, the park is closed!
Eric Caine says
Would be nice to know your name, Top Dog. You make a strong case for maintaining the status quo. Who are “these folks”? Wiring has been stolen everywhere. Are you suggesting any and all wiring theft is by homeless people? Maybe there would be less filth and trash if people had places to put their trash and were permitted to build a supervised sense of community. Are you suggesting the trash along our freeways and in all our parks is the fault of homeless people only? By your own admission, closing the park is not the solution; homeless people are there because there is no where else to go.
I would love to discuss a few ideas I have bouncing around my brain….
Stephanie Ann Valdovinos says
I couldnt have said that better myself. I am a homeless mother that lives very clean i have witnessed numerous occasions where everyday people not homeless come to my park and leave tons of garbage n which myself n my mother “Homeless women” clean it up and call city for pickup. So TOP DOG dont judge a book by its ugly cover. Some folks were dealt bad cards n not a silver spoon in their mouths. Try getting to know us personally before the quick judgement. Who are u God? A Saint that makes no wrongs or commits any sin
You need to attend our church in the park at Oregon Park in modestos airport neighbourhood. God bless ur false judgements.
I have lived in a home along the Tuolumne River for 8 yrs. now, and it has not been until the last year that it has become a viable resource for our community. Thousands of volunteer hours of removing tons of trash, hundreds of shopping carts and tires have transformed what used to be a wasteland into a natural resource our community can be proud of. Green spaces are a vital part of any healthy community. Read up on the benefits of green spaces if you are unaware of the good it brings to communities, families, and the environment. This summer for the first time in the 8 yrs. living here, I was able to take my kids and grandkids down to the river to recreate in a clean and safe environment any city should be proud of. As the rest of the community comes to realize our natural wonderland right here in downtown, it will began to also open up economic oportunities as well. The imense refuse generated by homeless camps are a danger to the citizens of our city as well as the wildlife that live along the river. This spring I had the unfortunate task of burying a 40 lb. beaver that had become entangled in some rope that had made it’s way into the river. It doesn’t take much garbage to have a detrimental impact to the environment. That beaver is now a lost opportunity that could have been used as a teaching vessel to our young children on wildlife. I don’t feel it is right for a few bad apples to spoil it for the rest of us, and I will be at city council meetings to be sure this doesn’t happen. In conclusion, I believe by building a healthy community for our families to prosper, we will reduce many of the ills that plague the city such as high school drop outs, substance abuse, and homelessness.
Eric Caine says
Could not agree more Arthur. We are big supporters of living rivers and fear not only the ill effects of trash and garbage but also the damage caused by non-native plants like water hyacinth. When people have no place to go, they inevitably gravitate to public places in unmanageable numbers. Far better to have designated places for homeless people where problems with trash, garbage, and crime can be better controlled.
Susan Ewers says
It doesn’t take much to become “homeless”-They have to take what they can carry to survive. Everyone needs a place to lay their heads. What about making available portable toliets and clean water so that they, too, can clean themselves. It doesn’t take much to lose your pride!! Let’s give the help they need by realizing that anyone of the homeless could be you or I! In order to work they need an address-what about a center where they can check in and give their names on a register so that family can find them and they can get work. There are so many programs that could be available to them if someone took the time and some money. I know my daughter works her heart out trying to help these people feel like someone cares!!
I’m homeless but I have a minivan, this yr everything was stolen while I was in Reno jail on something totally off the charts stupid. I need blankets, like comforters cus I’m naturally cold all the time. I need a winter coat, a free pair of jeans and some long sleeve shirts, oh abd a dang camp stove!!! Where can I get the things I need b4 it gets too cold? And where can I park at night and not worry bout being towed?