In a Thursday morning meeting with members of MOCAG, a local citizens’ activist group, Modesto City Councilmember Jeremiah Williams said he favored safe sleeping sites for homeless people as long as supervision of the site was contracted out to service providers. The meeting was held on May 18 in a city council conference room in downtown Modesto.
“We (the City of Modesto) don’t have the people to staff and supervise permitted campsites,” said Williams. “Places like the Salvation Army and the [Modesto] Gospel Mission have the experience and staff to supervise safe camping.” He added that other service providers were also an option.
The meeting grew out of frustration from Modesto residents about the city’s lack of an action plan to abate growing homeless numbers throughout the city’s residential and business districts.
MOCAG member John Frailing said that there had been a homeless person screaming loudly in the street in front of his house that same morning. City officials have opposed permitted camping in designated areas, but Frailing, like other city residents, cited widespread camping throughout the city as a growing problem.
“I’ve got campers behind my house,” said Frailing.
Williams said that there is a pressing need to separate the seriously mentally ill people in the homeless population from those who have the mental and physical capacity to move on from homeless into independent living.
When asked about the possibility of the City of Modesto collaborating with Stanislaus County to manage the homeless population, Williams said it was a good idea. He said that at present, behavioral health services were overwhelmed throughout the county.
“We have to offer enough services so that people who can get well have the opportunity to get help.”
Williams’ sister operates a homeless shelter in Los Angeles and recently told him that a homeless man with a monthly income of $300 had refused to pay $15 a month for a two-bedroom apartment because he didn’t want to part with the money. A great many mentally ill homeless people are unsuited to traditional housing options even when available and need to be placed in supervised environments instead of left on the street. Too few such facilities are currently available. Safe sleeping sites are often more preferred by some homeless people than conventional living.
Near the end of the meeting, MOCAG member Richard Anderson showed a photograph of a homeless man that had appeared in a recent story about homelessness in the Modesto Bee. The photo showed the man slumped against a wall and in the path of an opening door, his hand in half a clench, his bare feet filthy with dirt and grime.
Near tears, Anderson said, “We can’t have this kind of thing in our town.” City Councilmember Williams agreed.
One block away, a homeless man lay sleeping near one of the city’s main thoroughfares, oblivious to the rising heat and growing need to act on homelessness now.
Marcellus Johnson says
It’s sad I’m a living breathing witness with hands on experience with being from a homeless encampment we need help and yes if there was a offer for me to pay 20$ a month to secure myself and family yes I would accept. it been a ongoing problem though it’s noticeable but obviously been overlooked till now . I pray there will be a soluble solution to this ongoing problem.
leiani hagberg says
One random refusal to accept $20 a month housing is hardly a worthy example of housing concerns. For example, lice and cockroaches are common reasons to avoid “safe” places. Without data this is ridiculous sampling of “why”. Campgrounds with picnic tables, trailers, car parks, why not spend your millions on these like with fire victim resources???? Punishing the poor is a basic starting attitude but it’s not working as homelessness breaks focus and planning and health.
Diane Kroeze says
Agree homelessness is bad. Bad for the people in it and bad for those around them. Problem seems to be , talk to the experts, like Salvation Army etc.. Trouble is they, the Army etc., are probably overwhelmed. Safe sleeping areas are just a temporary bandaid. True talking to the experts is good but not expecting them to fix the problem is good. They too are a bandaid, important as they are. The State should have an Office/ dept. Dealing with an enormous problem that will never go away until major thinking is put into it. Gov. Reagan increased the problem of the mentally Ill homeless by closing the state hospitals to save money. Money is important but!,, look at the money being spent with no fix in site. Humans are the homeless and mentally Ill or penniless they deserve a solution as fit for humans/ pets. More bandaid and passing the buck won’t do it.
LOU VALERO says
I have nothing against City Council member Jeremiah Williams, though I do not accept that MOCAG should be strapped with coming up with the costs of supervisory staff. Nor should it be the Salvation Army or Modesto Gospel Mission who are looked to as management or supervisory staff. I understand that Jeremiah has a history with both groups thus both would pop up in his mind as his suggestions. Due to both groups history, many would not suggest either.
Without seeming snobbish, some homeless will steer clear of both groups, for various reasons. I will leave that point here for now. Plus, getting either group involved, will likely cost more money than is necessary. Throwing money at our problem does not prove advantageous.
I listened to every word spoken, including body language, at the May 9, 2023 City Council meeting. I even back played the video when uncertain exactly what was said. As many of us probably did. I am certain that at least two (2) other City Council members expressed an interest in pursuing the possibility of safe ground camping. One, in particular, said he and a couple of others had been giving consideration to camping ground. One,
Bavaro, sat directly to the right of the Mayor. The other is Vice-Mayor Ricci, sat two seats over to the left of the Mayor.
I suggest no one in MOCAG agree to any single plan without hearing from the other two City Council members who spoke of safe camping possibilities. I know time is flying by but PLEASE do not jump in to anything more than a well thought out plan.
Brainstorm this with the other City Council members who said they had been thinking already. Do not be overly eager to accept more responsibility than is reasonable.
Other encampments have been known to do an excellent job supervising, themselves. Having a peer run camp has to be a money saver, and a moral booster, showing trust within and without the camp(s). Recall we ourselves are confident that many of our houseless are on the streets due to money issues NOT character issues. The peer counselors or whatever they are termed, can be equipt with a means of contacting an outside assist.
I strongly suggest steering away from hiring a Security Guard business, or any group that smacks of one–up-man-ship.
Oviously, in order to be able to place trust in an essentially self-run camp, care must be taken in choosing WHO will make up the first pilot group at the safe ground camp, and, WHAT the written rules will be. Reflect on the fact each of them are already camping out on their own thus are experienced. Interview them as you would for any job. Assign shifts. Perhaps no money will pass hands. The right people will be honored to be chosen to have opportunity to camp for free or deep discount, while living up to keeping their grounds kept clean and organized.
Work your way through a number of such groups until you widdle down the numbers who are without homes and capable of earning trust. Perhaps some can work their way into a paid position at a camp. Some may already have jobs so would be willing to pay for grounds and the necessary amenities.
Taking on this endeavor in this manner, will free up time and money to encamp or otherwise house those who MUST have supervisory care. Slower and steady wins these challenges. Certainly not meaning too slow, as has been happening thus far. I know how tempting it is to get a City Council members ear, but hold out for what you know the houseless need, not for what someone else thinks they need.
Many speakers I heard, at the May 9, 2023, City Council meeting, exhibited a poor attitude toward the homeless. They say they are concerned, yet what exactly is their concern. Hidden motives and wrong thinking about all homeless will surface in the tone of voice, body language, and spoken words. Beware, some will do their best to steer you into their agenda. Know what your ground is and stand your ground.
I certainly would not allow the Police Chief’s personal opinion to color others thoughts, as he and a couple of others may be capable of doing. We want to keep this positive momentum moving forward. If there is a will, and there is, and, a necessity, of which there is, we can do this right. Let’s check our own personal attitudes at the door so they do not hinder progress. Get all the alterna-tives out on the table, and, do not be mistaken, by anyone, as to what your good intentions and demands are. Let noone corral you in.
When it comes to group dynamics the one with the title is not always the wisest, and, those without a title can often have power to sway decision making in wrong directions. Keep a level head about you when swimming with the more practiced negotiators. Experience and viewpoints do not often lend themselves to the best solutions. We can find ourselves, and the homeless, bogged down with less than advantageous consequences.
Modesto and Stanislaus County have been at this problem for a decade or more, yet the outcome for the majority of the homeless has been stagnate. Those with held views, that are outside of the experience of the houseless, are not likely to have the answers the homeless need. It is a cinch they would have come up with viable solutions for the majority, long prior to now. At this juncture, Modesto is in way over it’s budget, and, most housing due, will not be completed for years, nor will it be adequate. Not that some effort is not there.
Does anyone have a count on how many homeless people can fit OUTSIDE of the Salvation Army on 9th, including tables and chairs, and, at WHAT cost for the first year? No one can expect to see a huge decrease on the streets and in parks during daylight hours. City authorities and NIMBY citizens are REMINDED, not to TROUBLE those who cannot possibly fit in or outside the free day program. As the Vice-Mayor so cordially admitted, we are to see it as “a step”, not as a finished whole. Many, many more steps are in the making yet. Have courage to speak up…
When do we want safe ground, NOW!!!