Sunday Commentary: Ways to Solve the Homeless Problem in Davis

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In a May commentary, Davis Mayor Robb Davis wrote, “We need to talk about our options and make commitments. To deal with the visible homelessness that attracts our attention will take a patient and persistent process.”

This week, the Vanguard launched its event for July 26, a discussion of homelessness.  The discussion features Mayor Robb Davis, Pastor Bill Habicht, Mary Anne Kirsch (on the board of Davis Opportunity Village – a non-profit that works toward micro-housing for homeless individuals), and a member of the business community who has yet to be identified.

The purpose of our discussion is to look at what various efforts are already underway to solve the homeless problem in Davis, as well as look at what we need to still do.

The announcement on the Vanguard triggered no comments, but the same announcement on Nextdoor has triggered a slew of views.

One person indicated that “downtown CANNOT become the homeless camp it has become.”

He wrote, “There are other people who have claimed whole strips of sidewalk. You can’t sit on benches. They do drugs, smoke, piss, panhandle, harass (especially women), litter, and create a hostile environment. I’m sorry, it’s not their downtown, it’s ours!”

Others pushed back, saying “homeless people are human beings who have a RIGHT to exist, especially in public spaces. If you are concerned about their plight, then help by voting for taxes and providing donations that can help with homeless shelters, programs for drug abuse, and even public bathrooms. We are all responsible for helping others less fortunate.”

After a heated exchange, the first commenter later wrote, “But there’s the other side of the coin that you don’t seem to want to address: public health and safety, and subsequently, economic impact on downtown businesses.”

Another person added in, “I am avoiding downtown Davis now. I don’t want to deal with the homeless there.”

He added, “There is no good fix. The homeless problem is not going away by raising taxes in Davis or providing them with little houses here. Let’s not invite the homeless to come and live in Davis at our expense. I don’t want them in my neighborhood, and I wonder who does. Who wants drug users, drunks, and the mentally unfit in their neighborhood? I’d like to see federal programs that house the homeless en masse. Feed and house them in big complexes and keep them there.”

Another person pushed back, “It’s painful to read your rhetoric. The only solution is to invest in actual infrastructure to alleviate the problem in Davis, but Measure A was already voted down and the populace continues to refuse to allow densification to happen which only exacerbates the disparity in the community. Unless the city invests in an actual homeless shelter, along with community mental health and addiction clinics nothing will change.”

From this discussion – there are two issues.  First, there is a clear difference of opinion of what should be done and, second, there is a group in this community clearly frustrated by the current situation.

As someone who works every day in the downtown, the homeless are generally a part of life and I have not been bothered by their presence at all.  I understand from conversations that some people have been harassed, but I have personally not experienced that nor do I feel particular trepidation with walking through downtown with my kids.

From my perspective, one of the best discussions I have seen on homelessness took place at the May Davis Chamber walkabout.  We got to see the views of the business community, the mayor and the police.

Some in the business community have suggested that we figure out how many people we can feed and house and then get rid of the rest.

Chamber CEO Christina Blackman said she wants to get the community to help homeless people in ways that do not involve giving direct handouts.

“Educating the community as to why this is a different way of helping,” she said.  “I think if we really want to help solve the problem then making sure that we provide the support services and eventually housing if we can.”

For Mayor Davis, there is no magic bullet solution.

Robb Davis fears that, without housing and wrap-around programs, with the low cost of methamphetamine and other drugs, “the amount of money necessary to get a week’s supply of the drugs we’re talking about is very very low.”

“I don’t think there’s any one magic bullet,” he said.

Robb Davis said, “There’s no one thing we can do, there’s simply not.”

The business community is at a loss for how to help the business owner who is having problems with homeless populations.

The issue is complex and, while police are often called, Chief Pytel explained that “we have to deal with people’s immediate safety concerns.”  But, even having said that, “there may or may not be anything that we can do.

“A lot of people say, why don’t you just arrest them,” he said.  “We’re finding over and over that that’s not necessarily the answer,” especially if “mental illness or drugs and addiction are the primary issues.

“So just making an arrest under the current criminal justice system is not going to change that behavior,” he explained.  “We are looking for support that people are open to alternatives to the traditional criminal justice system.”

Rob White, representing the Chamber, pointed out that there is only so much a city can do, but there are people who are looking to get involved in the community and volunteer.  “I think there’s an opportunity for the city to craft places where those volunteer activities can happen.”

One model the city is looking into is the Housing First model.

Robb Davis in late May’s column wrote, “In Davis, we are not merely throwing up our arms and saying there is nothing we can do.  We’re committed as a city to move forward with a process known as Housing First.  Housing First is about helping people who are in those situations to move into housing before dealing with the broader issues they face.”

He said, “Housing First starts by providing an alternative to the street but then moves aggressively to deal with the causes of the homelessness.  The key is to get a roof over people’s heads and then to provide wrap-around services to address the other challenges they face.”

But again he warned, “Let’s be clear, it is not a panacea.”

I’ve read people’s concerns, but the reality is that this is a first step.  That’s what Robb Davis called it, writing that “it is only a first step, because once the roof is there then the wrap-around services that really are about addressing the underlying needs of the population in question become important.”

But I would argue it is a critical first step.

I would argue that it is better to have a roof over one’s head, irrespective of untreated mental illness and addiction.

It is easy to get frustrated at the enormity of the problem.  The key will be to address one issue at a time.  From what the police chief said, we cannot simply arrest people for being homeless and we cannot simply remove people from this community.

So we have to figure out another way.  Hopefully more community discussions can bring the business community together with other communities to find a solution.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


Vanguard Monthly Conclave: Addressing Homelessness In Davis

Wednesday, July 26 from 6 PM – 8 PM

Sophia’s Thai Kitchen
129 E St, Davis, California 95616



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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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77 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Ways to Solve the Homeless Problem in Davis”

  1. Dianne C Tobias

    Your upcoming forum sounds timely and informative. Suggest you invite a representative of the homelessness community as a panel member.

      1. Ron

        Bill:  Not saying this is a bad idea, but it should probably be noted that someone who is willing to show up and speak at a forum might not be “representative” of the homeless community, at large.

        1. Dianne C Tobias

          David, to repeat myself, I think someone in or previously in a homeless situation might be more informative to the discussion at hand than the panel members. I think it would help the audience understand their situation more also.

  2. Don Shor

    Given the tenor of the discussion on Next Door, I can only imagine what it will be like when an actual site is proposed for housing the homeless. The Vanguard and others keep proposing housing. So the next obvious question is going to be: where did you have in mind?

    1. Robb Davis

      I want to jump in to talk about this issue of “location.”  There are a number of things going on to address the issue:  1) The City Council has already approved a 90-unit project on 5th Street beyond the Police Department site.  The developers are proposing that 40 of the units be set aside for special needs housing–much like the Cesar Chavez units on Olive Drive.  These units are or permanent supportive housing for those who are currently homeless or at high risk of homelessness. 2) Though we have had to put it off due to lack of funding, the Pacifico Apartments are scheduled for rehabilitation (2 of the 3 units).  I do not have the unit counts at hand but they will be for low-income individuals.  3) there are advanced discussions about creating transitional, permanent and even some emergency beds at a third site near the core (discussions ongoing). 4) Tying these all together is the Pathways bridge voucher program that enables very low income people to use these and even market rate apartments for housing while they await federal housing vouchers.  These are the programs underway right now.  These will go a long way to providing options for a housing first approach and they are, as can be seen, scattered around the city and, in the case of vouchers, may not have a single location at all.

  3. Jim Hoch

    “Given the tenor of the discussion on Next Door, I can only imagine what it will be like when an actual site is proposed for housing the homeless.”

    During the previous “housing first” discussion I challenged the supporters of this plan to name a place. No one did. Wait until they move a  schizophrenic and a couple of meth smokers into someone’s neighborhood. Robb will not be able to go to the Farmer’s Market anymore.

    BTW I find the whole “Housing First” discussion disingenuous/deceitful as advocates refuse to acknowledge what it really entails.

    1. Robb Davis

      I must have missed the earlier discussion so I apologize for not sharing location information.  I have done so above.  Hopefully that will help remove the concern that we are somehow hiding the ball on this. We are not.  We have severe housing constraints but the foregoing shows that we are moving forward to provide housing for special needs.  We have also discussed and will continue to move forward on making sure we have the wraparound services necessary to deal with the underlying issues.

      My questions is what do citizens of Davis want to do about homelessness?  If it is simply to “make it go away,” that is not an option. Any effort is going to take time and be costly to implement.  I get MANY emails complaining about the problem but it is one that does not lend itself to easy solutions.  Merely evicting people from camps is not a solution as our own Police Chief has made clear.  So, if that won’t work then we need real programmatic options.  That is what we are working on.

      1. Jim Hoch

        Appreciate your setting up with a location. The issue I have with “housing first” is the continual misrepresentation of what it means by people who either don’t know or are intending to deceive. As defined by HUD:

        “Housing First is an approach to quickly and successfully connect individuals and families experiencing homelessness to permanent housing without preconditions and barriers to entry, such as sobriety, treatment or service participation requirements. Supportive services are offered to maximize housing stability and prevent returns to homelessness as opposed to addressing predetermined treatment goals prior to permanent housing entry. Housing First emerged as an alternative to the linear approach in which people experiencing homelessness were required to first participate in and graduate from short-term residential and treatment programs before obtaining permanent housing. In the linear approach, permanent housing was offered only after a person experiencing homelessness could demonstrate that they were “ready” for housing. ”

        What this means in practice is taking people who are using drugs or acting out on mental illness in socially unacceptable ways and placing them in housing with the hope, but not the expectation or requirement, that they change their behavior.

        This means in short that people in “housing first” residences will continue to smoke meth or act crazy and that is the expected result of this program. As long as everyone acknowledges that this is what we are talking about we can have the discussion. To the extent that this is not explicitly stated then we are not talking about “housing first” or there is some deception going on.

        In our previous discussion David suggested that we take people smoking meth and disperse them into random apartments around town.   My suggestion was that we start with chronically homeless over 55 and house them in the trailer park on Pole Line as there are no children in that location.

        I believe that is where we left it.

  4. John Hobbs

    ” I can only imagine what it will be like when an actual site is proposed for housing the homeless.”

    Here is a deeply divisive problem. You can’t create a ghetto, where the residents are easily identified as “homeless” and not incur the wrath of neighbors. In larger cities we could place them in available unoccupied houses, there are plenty still around, but the required services would not be centralized.

     

     

  5. Ron

    Robb:  “1) The City Council has already approved a 90-unit project on 5th Street beyond the Police Department site.  The developers are proposing that 40 of the units be set aside for special needs housing–much like the Cesar Chavez units on Olive Drive.”

    John:  “Here is a deeply divisive problem. You can’t create a ghetto, where the residents are easily identified as “homeless” and not incur the wrath of neighbors”.

    “Overlooked” in Robb’s comment is that there are “neighbors” MUCH closer to planned, 90-unit development he describes who DON’T consist of the “police department”.

    There are also other existing and planned Affordable housing developments in that area. Such developments are becoming “concentrated” along that section of Fifth street.

    I grew up in an area where federal, low-income housing projects created significant danger and problems. When many of them were removed, so was much of the danger and problems.

    1. Ron

      I would add that the planned 90-unit development is far from downtown, and needed services.

      If you’re going to have a development which houses a significant number of troubled individuals, it probably needs to be near existing, needed services (or, be a self-contained, all-in-one facility, such as Families First was).

      Since only about half of the 90-unit development is envisioned for homeless individuals, also wondering how homeless individuals will “mix” with the remainder of future low-income residents at that site, not to mention other neighbors.

      Has any of this actually been thought-out?

        1. Ron

          Jim, Jim, Jim . . .

          They’re going to come “looking for you”, pretty soon! (“Instrument” used – a cane?) (It won’t take much “forensics” to determine that.) 🙂

        2. David Greenwald

          Sarcasm Ron.  You said, “Has any of this actually been thought-out?”. Unless you are going to put them on island, you’re always going to have people in proximity.

        3. Ron

          David:  In general, unless those individuals receive support/treatment for whatever circumstances caused them to be homeless, it’s likely that they (as a group) are going to create problems for neighbors, wherever they are purposefully located. (Especially if it’s to areas where there are no needed services.)

          As Jim asked, what is the goal?  Is it to relocate them, from areas where they’re already creating problems (e.g., downtown)?  To house them, for their own benefit?  To treat them, for whatever broad range of conditions caused them (as a group) to be homeless?

          I realize that embedded within my questions is an assumption that there are circumstances/conditions which caused many of these individuals to become homeless (e.g., mental illness, drug addiction, etc.).

        4. David Greenwald

          The goal of the program is to get them into housing first and then get them services.

          My general observation is we get paralyzed into inaction by the unavailability of a perfect solution.

        5. Ron

          I would also ask if there’s going to be full-time, round-the-clock staff to manage the 90-unit Affordable housing development (approximately half of which may be occupied by homeless individuals, who may have significant problems with addiction, mental illness, etc.).

          Part of the problem with the massive, Federal low-income housing complexes was/is a lack of commitment for adequate on-site management.  (I just saw a PBS program regarding that, last night.)

          To do things properly, it takes $$$, something that is somehow (perennially) in short supply for the city. A half-assed approach can make things worse, and create unintended consequences.

        6. Jim Hoch

          Ron,

           

          I question whether this program will noticeably reduce the number of homeless downtown or along the railroad track. So if that is the goal then my advice is to quit now.

          If the goal is help a selected group of individuals then that is possible.

          If the goal to is help long time Davis residents then I don;t know if that is a possible criteria.

          If the goal is to transition people to a place where they can live independently then you will want to take high functioning and reject the chronically homeless.

          If the goal is to address the “greatest need” then you have to accept these people will likely be living here their entire lives.

          If you don’t have a clearly articulated goal you will create havoc and fail.

        7. Ron

          Jim:  I think you’ve pretty much nailed it, regarding goals, criteria, and outcomes.

          Unfortunately, I do not have a suggestion for those who want to do something to help, “in general”.

           

        8. Jim Hoch

          “the goal of the program is to get them into housing first and then get them services”

          So if they take the housing and refuse the services? What then?

        9. David Greenwald

          Jim: Are they better off on the streets or in a home if they aren’t getting services?  I’d still argue they’re better off in a home.  This is part of the problem we have – you can’t force people to do something and you have a suboptimal solution, but it’s still better than the status quo.

        10. Jim Hoch

          David, “Are they better off on the streets or in a home?” Of course they are better off in a home. Are the people around them better off? And what about the other homeless people who could potentially benefit? Do you say “no room at the Inn”? because people want to live there in their disease for life? 

          This is the same problem I have with “Affordable Hosing” Some people get a golden ticket and everyone else get the shaft.

          While “Housing First” is the hot buzzword on the leftist blogs I am not convinced it is a good use of resources compared to the traditional linear system which has proven successful.

           

          1. Don Shor

            the traditional linear system which has proven successful.

            Which traditional linear system are you referring to, and where has it been proven successful?
            (Serious question, not snark.)

        11. Dave Hart

          Don, Jim Hoch referred to a HUD statement on the “traditional linear system” thus:

          Housing First emerged as an alternative to the linear approach in which people experiencing homelessness were required to first participate in and graduate from short-term residential and treatment programs before obtaining permanent housing. In the linear approach, permanent housing was offered only after a person experiencing homelessness could demonstrate that they were “ready” for housing.

  6. Bill Habicht

    Let’s not invite the homeless to come and live in Davis at our expense. I don’t want them in my neighborhood, and I wonder who does.

    You realize that many of people living homeless in Davis grew up here.  They attended elementary through high school here.

      1. Bill Habicht

        Don, yes.  Unfortunately, the case is often that the families are dysfunctional to the point that staying with family is no longer an option.

        1. Ron

          I know someone from a Third World (Asian) country, where they apparently don’t have this type of problem as much.  (Even though they are far less wealthy.)  Seems that families are more “functional”, there.  Not sure why. (Perhaps they need to be, to survive well.)

        2. Don Shor

          So this is really a key general question I have about this issue. How is it that these folks have completely fallen off of the traditional safety nets that we have? Family support, county housing, drug treatment … what is it in these cases that has led them to the streets and for their solutions to be so intractable? I realize the homeless population is diverse, that it’s not entirely drug, alcohol, or mental health issues, that we shouldn’t conflate all those things. There is quite a range within the homeless population. But to what extent are personal choices involved, and will providing free room and board actually help or hinder their progress toward changing behaviors?

        3. Dave Hart

          Don, your question shares much of the same answer as to why and how the very elderly end up not dying at home.  It is the breakdown in the traditional family structure that  primarily exists in wealthier, more advanced countries.  So what do these relatively wealthy, technically advanced countries have in common?  I’ll leave it to you to cogitate and ponder on the answer to that question.  I hurts my feelings when people tell me I’m lecturing them.

          1. Don Shor

            So what do these relatively wealthy, technically advanced countries have in common? I’ll leave it to you to cogitate and ponder on the answer to that question.

            Nope, way too opaque for me.

        4. Jim Hoch

          Don, Dave is correct. In the linear you have homeless shelter the detox or mental health program, then an adult program, then transitional or AFL. This model is proven successful for many people.

          Some people do not want to do this as they do not want to stop or they don’t want to go to rehab or change their behavior. This was the origin of housing first. “Here’s a key, do whatever you want”.

        5. Jim Hoch

          Don, I knew a guy who had a year clean. Then I saw him using. I asked “what happened” he said “I wanted to get loaded”.   That about sums it up. if the family does not want you to use at home you move out.

          Homeless advocates see their mission as housing people, not restoring them to productive lives. So if someone is in a tent you put them in under a roof, make an X in the victory column, and move on. That is not my interest, I would prefer people to be restored to sanity, and tough love can work though people can also die.

           

      2. Robb Davis

        Homeless advocates see their mission as housing people, not restoring them to productive lives. So if someone is in a tent you put them in under a roof, make an X in the victory column, and move on.

        That statement is incorrect.  People who work in this field, as opposed to those who pontificate about it, care deeply to move people beyond the causes of homelessness and restore them to full lives.  You apparently don’t know any “homeless advocates” or you would not make such a ridiculous statement.  It is demeaning to the many people who work to solve a very challenging problem.

  7. Robb Davis

    Ron said:

    “Overlooked” in Robb’s comment is that there are “neighbors” MUCH closer to planned, 90-unit development he describes who DON’T consist of the “police department”.

    I used that description merely to situate the project geographically and not confuse it with Sterling closer in.  The process by which the City Council approved this project passed through multiple commissions and at least 3 public meetings of the City Council over many months.  To be honest, I heard zero complaints or concerns from neighbors of this project.

    1. Ron

      Robb:  Yeah, I wasn’t paying attention when the council increased density at that Affordable housing site.  (Not sure how far/wide notices were distributed, by the city.) However, given recent history regarding council actions, I’m not sure that the concerns of neighbors would have made much difference.  After awhile, neighbor fatigue (regarding constant battles with the council’s goals and actions) might be setting in, as well.

      In any case, the proposal to house homeless at that site appears to be something new.  As I asked above, will there be full-time, round-the-clock management to resolve the problems that will likely arise?  Or, is the council planning to rely upon the “nearby police department” (that you mentioned), more often?

      Any thoughts given regarding the differences between the homeless individuals, and other low-income residents at that site? (Potential conflicts, etc.?)

      What “services” are in place to help these individuals become more independent? (Or, as Jim asked, is this viewed as a permanent arrangement, for selected homeless residents?)

      1. Ron

        (Clarification:  In looking at your earlier quote, I can see that you didn’t use the term “nearby” police department.  My apologies.)

        For what it’s worth, I admire your underlying goal of trying to help homeless individuals. However, as mentioned earlier, half-baked solutions can create more problems than they solve (while simultaneously spending city money that’s in short supply).

    1. Robb Davis

      A number of questions that have been raised to which I will attempt a response:

      1. In any case, the proposal to house homeless at that site (5th Street) appears to be something new.  As I asked above, will there be full-time, round-the-clock management to resolve the problems that will likely arise?

      It is not new in any way. Permanent supportive housing has been part of the plan since the CC decided to go in this direction rather than affordable housing that focused on seniors.  That decision was taken in a public meeting after debate in the Social Services Commission over two years ago.

      There is round the clock management planned at the site.

      2. Any thoughts given regarding the differences between the homeless individuals, and other low-income residents at that site? (Potential conflicts, etc.?)

      This is essentially the model at Cesar Chavez.  I have not heard that this is a problem though any time there are people with significant mental health and/or addiction challenges there will be conflicts and behavioral issues to deal with.

      3. So this is really a key general question I have about this issue. How is it that these folks have completely fallen off of the traditional safety nets that we have? Family support, county housing, drug treatment … what is it in these cases that has led them to the streets and for their solutions to be so intractable?

      That is a good question and not an easy one to answer.  The short answer is that our safety net, especially for those with significant mental health problems, is seriously “frayed” to say non-existent. For some people, the ONLY mental health services they will ever receive is via incarceration.  Drug treatment programs are also in short supply and we need more of them.  The bottom line is that our social infrastructure is in even worse condition than our physical infrastructure.  Much of it is funded via time-limited grants.  The intractability of the problem is tied to the syndrome of mental health, addiction, childhood trauma (only now starting to be addressed in a systematic way) and criminal records that act to exclude some from services.  There is no doubt that the potency and low price of modern drugs have led many to wander deeply into addiction (just observe the national opioid addiction epidemic).

      The issue of personal decisions was also raised.  Sure… decisions were made at many points in time.  Decisions were made by parents to abuse their kids.  Choices were made to overcharge for minor offenses leading to “third strike” issues and far too many felonies.  Choices were made to defund mental health facilities and not fund community-based programs.  Decisions were made to criminalized addiction and mental illness.

      Personal choices by people who end up on the streets can only be evaluated in the context of these systemic decisions and, at a certain point, one must ask how “free” personal decisions are.

      4. A few comments more than a question in relation to housing first: “What this means in practice is taking people who are using drugs or acting out on mental illness in socially unacceptable ways and placing them in housing with the hope, but not the expectation or requirement, that they change their behavior.”

      This is absolutely false.  There is every expectation that people will change their behavior.  That is why caseworkers are employed and why consequences for inappropriate behavior are in place.  The goal is to move people most at risk of death on the streets and get a roof over their heads so that they can receive treatment and move beyond the challenges that led them to the street.  Some will need support for the rest of their lives.  Others will be able to move back into jobs and other housing.

      5. To do things properly, it takes $$$, something that is somehow (perennially) in short supply for the city. A half-assed approach can make things worse, and create unintended consequences.

      Correct.  It takes money.  Budgets are about priorities and that is why we get to decide if we want to help people living on the edges or not.  Housing first is not a half-assed approach.  It has clear protocols and includes support and counseling.

      The bottom line is that we are dealing with a significant challenge.  What I see here in Davis is that those who live closest to camps want something done NOW.  Others who do not “see” the problem every day seem satisfied with the status quo and throw up barriers to even trying.  They point to the problems that housing homeless people will cause and deride as impractical any effort to change the situation.

      The first group says, essentially, “just make this go away… NOW!”

      The second group says, essentially, “not my problem, why make it my problem?”

      A final word on the downtown.  I have lived here 3 years and I can say with absolute certainty that the challenges here are very limited.  There are a few people who panhandle regularly but there are times (like the present) when there is very little activity (there is far more regular activity by people seeking to collect signatures for various causes). There are times when truly transient people come into town for a few days and cause problems.  They are here for a short while and then leave.  They tend to be more aggressive and more unruly (ask the police about them).  They are not a regular feature of downtown.  I have observed one person (whom I know and who has mental health issues) sleeping in open in the downtown recently.  That is pretty much it. People stop me not infrequently to discuss downtown problems related to homelessness and I offer to walk around them so they can show me the problem.  Invariably they say, “so, right now it’s not so bad… but there are times when it is.”  I am starting to wonder, as a downtown dweller, when those times are.

       

       

       

      1. Jim Hoch

        Mayor,

        I think we have some disagreement over terms. Housing First is defined as “permanent housing without preconditions and barriers to entry, such as sobriety, treatment or service participation requirements”

        This is in direct conflict with your statement “There is every expectation that people will change their behavior.  That is why caseworkers are employed and why consequences for inappropriate behavior are in place”

        It seems you are proposing a plan which skips the detox or other induction stage but preserves the behavior modification of later stage treatment. This may or may not be successful but it is not “Housing First”.

         

        1. Robb Davis

          The key term here is “entry.”  There are no barriers to ENTRY in housing first.  That does not mean that there are no expectations of change within the program once someone is in.  The distinction between housing first and traditional “transitional housing” programs has to do with low/no entry barriers in the former, whereas the latter require certain requirements as a condition of entry.  I see no contradiction in what I wrote and the meaning of housing first.

        2. Jim Hoch

          Also from HUD

          “Supportive services are voluntary, but can and should be used to persistently engage tenants to ensure housing stability – Supportive services are proactively offered to help tenants achieve and maintain housing stability, but tenants are not required to participate in services as a condition of tenancy. ” Emphasis mine.

        3. Robb Davis

          HUD’s definition and the way we run programs locally are not one and the same.  I cannot think of any housing first program that does not have consequences for inappropriate behavior.  All that definition means is that if you abide by the rule there are no particular requirements.  And that makes sense.  There is no contradiction here. Behavior is what matters, not participation in a given program.

        4. Jim Hoch

          I will agree that there is some confusion about what is and what is not “Housing First”. However I disagree that you can make any changes to the substance of the program and still call it “Housing First”. HUD published the guidelines so that success rates at various programs could be compared and when you look up “Housing First” in the published literature they reference back to the HUD Guidelines. I don’t like “Housing First” so your proposing something housing first? else is welcome.

          So if someone is smoking meth they get kicked out?

        5. Jim Hoch

          “Is that a good idea?”

          The neighbors may think so. However I asked the question to better understand what kind of program the Mayor in mind. Now that I understand it will be a long ways away from me my perspective has changed from a parent to a taxpayer.

        6. David Greenwald Post author

          Maybe the neighbors may think so, but it seems to me that you simply displace the problem by kicking someone out for using drugs.  Again, I think we are allowing the perfect solution prevent us from taking steps in the right direction.

  8. Dave Hart

    Our mayor, Robb Davis, is a gift to our community in so many ways.  I also agree that there need to be clearly identified goals no matter what problem needs to be solved.  It seems to me there can be no single goal for a single problem of homelessness.  So why not at least attempt the simple goal of providing a roof for that small percentage of the homeless population that is not mentally ill or does not have a substance abuse problem?  Just today in the Sacramento Bee is an article about such a homeless person who could or should have been aided more quickly.

    http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/marcos-breton/article160034404.html#storylink=indep

    Why not start with doing what is most doable?  At very least, as a community, we should have a clear goal to resolve “simple” homelessness for people like that.

    1. Ron

      Dave:  I read the SacBee article.  Pretty incredible story, and sounds like a unique individual.  Didn’t take long for him to totally change his life.  (Assuming he now has a long career with the Highway Patrol, he’ll probably earn far more, and have a much better retirement package than most reading this blog – including me.) Given his background, he might retain a greater than average amount of empathy, for others.

  9. Sharla C.

    We can start by not giving cash to panhandlers.  Give food & water – give to charities, give cards with a list of resources.  No cash. The homeless that are here in Davis for economic reasons will move on to another community that is more lucrative.  Then deal with those that are left.

    1. Richard C

      We can start by not giving cash to panhandlers.

      I don’t give cash to panhandlers.  The problem is that there are many in our community that do. Perhaps a way to convince people would be for merchants to have a collection box in their establishments where people could deposit money that would go to local social service organizations.

    2. David Greenwald

      It’s not clear that withholding cash to panhandlers would be a solution and some believe it would end up increasing petty thefts

    3. Howard P

      Not sure I will attend the conclave, but know (from several sources) that in May, at the very edge of Davis, a HP with MH and alcohol/tobacco issues was very inebriated, was smoking, and fell asleep/became unconscious while smoking while lying in/on his sleeping bag.  He was taken to a hospital and died a few hours after, of the resultant injuries (severe burns) sustained.  That is another way to ‘decrease’ the number of HP’s near/in town.

      I am loathe to accept that as an “option”.

    4. Sharla C.

      David, Is the argument really that we should give cash hand outs to people so they don’t resort to stealing from us in order to buy drugs and alcohol?  There is something really wrong with this.  Doesn’t this illustrate and acknowledge the threatening presence that these people have for the rest of the community in people’s minds?

      1. David Greenwald

        Let me ask you this: how is that any worse than withholding panhandling money because some people might use it for drugs or alcohol rather than food?

        1. Sharla C.

          When I lived in Berkeley, the City was spending quite a lot of money on homeless services, yet the problem continued to grow.  Areas of downtown were really scary.  Panhandlers were numerous and really aggressive.  It was discovered that cash handouts were attracting people to the City – not the availability of services for homeless.  The City began an educational campaign to get people to stop giving cash and instead giving vouchers that could be redeemed for motel rooms, food, showers, etc. or shift their donations to charities that offered services.   The City also passed ordinances that limited where people could approach people for money and how intrusive they could be in doing so – no panhandling that blocked entrances to businesses’ doors, required distances from ATMs, no approaching people in city parking lots putting change into parking meters, etc.   To encourage people to continue to give people money to keep them from committing crimes seems wrong.  It feels a bit like extortion.

        2. Ron

          Jim:  Another concern that you’ve nailed. I’ve noticed this previously (but not necessarily in Davis).

          Is the mayor planning to accommodate/house homeless individuals who have dogs? (For example, in the planned development on Fifth Street?)

          I suspect that some homeless people have somewhat aggressive dogs for protection, while living on the street.

        3. Robb Davis

          Ron, is it really necessary to ask what the mayor is going to do, as if this my program alone. Dealing with this challenge is a Council goal and the City Manager’s Office has found funds to begin to deal with it.  This program belongs to all of us, not just the mayor.

        4. Ron

          Robb:  Fair enough.  However, you’re the only council member that responds on this blog, so I figured that I’d (indirectly) address the question to you.  Plus, my impression is that you care about this issue and program quite a bit (perhaps more than most).  (Overall, my impression is that you care a lot about social justice-type issues, for lack of a better phrase.)

          In any case, do you happen to know the answer to the question I asked?  Or, is it too soon to know?

          I’m guessing that dogs won’t be allowed (at the planned Fifth Street complex), but the question crossed my mind.

  10. Howard P

    Ron… you wrote,

    I suspect that some homeless people have somewhat aggressive dogs for protection, while living on the street.

    Why do you suspect that?  You have no clue, do you, Ron, about the homeless in the Davis environs?

    Have gotten to know two, rather well, and have met over a dozen others and engaged them in conversation over the last two years.  One had a dog… as I would for anyone (homeless or otherwise), I asked if it was OK to say “hi” to the dog… he said, “sure”… that dog wanted to be my “best friend forever”… now if I had yelled at, or physically threatened the guy, the dog might have behaved differently, as most “pack animals” will.

    Think about it Ron… if you can… do you think the homeless community (and there is a lot of evidence of what they are, at least in Davis) would tolerate an aggressive dog around?

    Get off your couch, meet those folk, learn… I fear them not… the few who have true, serious MH issues, I don’t engage.  Most are supportive of each other, even to the point of encouraging some of us to help individuals, and reinforcing that the individual should accept the help.

    BTW, to all, panhandling is not limited to the homeless, and not all homeless panhandle.  As to the first, I’ve seen families (Roma?) panhandling and then taking their babies to the back of a two-year old, somewhat ‘tricked out’ SUV for a diaper change.  A better vehicle than I could ever afford.  One was “begging” @ CVS (before I recognized the scam), inside the store saying she really needed diapers (@ check-out line)… I offered to pay for them (to move the line which I was in) then she asked if she could get more “necessities”… which turned out to include makeup, and other adult goodies… I drew the line at the diapers… she got huffy, walked out, and there was no transaction.

    Some panhandlers are opportunists, playing on guilt, liberal righteousness, whatever.  Some are truly in need, but the truly needy accept food or food cards (which you can get where liquor is is not eligible) in-lieu of cash.  At least in my experience in Davis.  Aggressive panhandling is a sign of scam or serious drug dependence… that’s why I do not give money… and the aggressive ones, I smile, disengage, and report to PD…

    I’m motivated by charity (see latin roots) not guilt.

    1. Ron

      Howard:  Actually, I haven’t had any issues with homeless individuals (or their dogs), in Davis.  Elsewhere, yes.  My elderly Mom is often quite afraid, when walking by some homeless individuals who have dogs.

      Unlike “normal” dog-owners (who have homes), I suspect that opportunities to hold homeless owners “responsible” for their dogs (in the event of a problem) is quite limited, to say the least.

      Not sure how the “homeless community” views their neighbors’ dogs.  However, life on the street carries risks (as noted in the article posted yesterday, by another commenter).  I can envision having a dog for protection (and companionship), in such circumstances. (However, it would probably be better for all concerned – including dogs, if personal efforts were focused on obtaining a home, prior to getting a pet.)

      Honestly, the current situation regarding homelessness in Davis doesn’t bother me, personally.  However, the city’s “plan” to concentrate a significant number near my house (where there also aren’t any services) does cause some concern for me.

      Still haven’t received an answer to the question I asked Robb.

      1. Howard P

        Get off your couch, Ron… might just open your eyes.

        Aggressive dogs can be easily dealt with… called a ‘bullet’ or euthanasia… yes, for the guy I met, it was a ‘comfort (and/or therapy) dog’… helped him engage with others.

        You have fully admitted to being a NIMBY, when you wrote,

        Honestly, the current situation regarding homelessness in Davis doesn’t bother me, personally.  However, the city’s “plan” to concentrate a significant number near my house (where there also aren’t any services) does cause some concern for me.

        Truly classic for the definition… you have well stated why the term NIMBY exists… thank you for that.

        1. Ron

          Yeah, Howard.  I’m concerned about what goes on near my house.  If you look at the history of my comments, I also don’t propose “sacrificing” any other neighborhood, with unwanted development, homeless shelters (where there are no services), etc.  I’ve spent more time regarding those type of comments, than anything else (and I suspect you know that).

          As someone else once said (and which I’ve repeated a number of times), “no neighborhood gets thrown under the bus”.  (With you, it sometimes seems that “every neighborhood gets thrown under the bus”, with an unnecessary “insult”, to boot.)

          Perhaps you’d like to explain what NIMBYism means to someone like my Mom, if she (now) becomes exposed to more problems, when visiting.

          Regarding the current situation – again, I haven’t noticed any problems.  (Perhaps partly because it’s not near my house – yet.)  Or, perhaps it’s because no one has previously tried to concentrate these individuals in any particular location in Davis.

          One thing for sure – it doesn’t matter what I think, anyway. After all, I missed the “social services” hearing, when all of this was apparently discussed (and recommendations made).

          Hey – the city apparently has plenty of money to do this, anyway.

           

        2. Howard P

          NIMBY is not an insult.  It is what it is.

          Anyone who disagrees with your ‘facts’/suspicions is “insulting”.., OK

          Bringing your Mom into it is dissembling.

          Your quote,

          (With you, it sometimes seems that “every neighborhood gets thrown under the bus”, with an unnecessary “insult”, to boot.),

          could be considered insulting (particularly since it is inaccurate… by a long mile… as to throwing all neighborhoods under the bus… your paranoia?)  I live within 600 feet of the Fifth/San Sebastian site… no worries here.  But that actually is not the main topic, so you digress, to protect your environs.

          You have not addressed your familiarity with Davis homeless… I am pretty darn sure you never will… you “cherry-pick” what you respond to.

          On a positive note, may you and all those you care about, never have to deal with poverty, addictions, MH issues (inc. PTSD), bad luck,  or other precursors to homelessness.  May you also gain some empathy (tiny bit would suffice) for those not so blessed.

           

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            The negative connotation of “not in my backyard”comes from the fact that those opposing high-impact projects on environmental grounds tend to have middle-class or lower-class origins. As a result the phrase may be used by project proponents as part of a wedge issue (a political issue that divides a candidate’s supporters or the members of a party). The phrase has a double edge, which makes it difficult to cope with for people so labeled. On one hand, it implies that project opponents want poor people and poor neighborhoods to bear the burdens of toxic waste facilities or quarries, whereas, on the other, it suggests that opponents are willing to sacrifice the blue-collar jobs that would be generated by the construction and operation of the facility.

            https://www.britannica.com/topic/Not-in-My-Backyard-Phenomenon

        3. Ron

          Howard:

          You appear to be looking for a fight, while simultaneously displaying your usual self-righteousness. (A combination I’ve seen plenty of times from you, in the past.)

          This started out as a simple question to the mayor, to which you apparently feel compelled to respond.

          Regarding NIMBYism, that’s usually tossed about as an insult.  (Thank you Don – just saw your comment.) I’ve already made my positions pretty clear regarding unwanted developments in ANY neighborhood.  Yes, I pay even “more attention” when it has a more direct impact on me, and/or on those close to me.

          I’ve seen lots of examples in my lifetime, in which those with the best of intentions inadvertently create more problems than they solve (e.g., massive federal, low-income housing, “forced” integration of schools via busing, etc.).  With no follow-up to address the problems created.

          I will acknowledge that I don’t fully know what to expect, regarding the planned development on Fifth.  On a related note, I generally haven’t noticed any significant problems with Affordable housing developments, in Davis. (However, the one planned for Fifth Street is apparently going to be different from most others.)

        4. Howard P

          You appear to be looking for a fight, while simultaneously displaying your usual self-righteousness. (A combination I’ve seen plenty of times from you, in the past.)

          No insult there, just it is what it is.

          Oh, and some folk’s ‘backyards’ include Davis and a 3-5 mile buffer.

        5. Ron

          Howard:  Our “backyard” includes all of Davis, surrounding communities, the state, the country, and the world.  (In that order.)

          Most of my comments deal with the near-complete lack of will to work toward a stable population, while pretending that “smart growth” and less-impactful lifestyles can (somehow) overcome the lack of will to address endless population growth and development. (All that really does is delay the inevitable.)

          Davis is one of the few towns that even considers reasonable controls, regarding growth and development.

          Again, if you think it’s “unreasonable” to be concerned about the potential impacts of a homeless shelter without adequate services (in anyone’s neighborhood), then I’m not sure what else to say about your comments.

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