Last month, the Davis City Council, pressured by neighbors on Pacifico, acknowledged that the Pacifico location was not the best position for the residential treatment center proposed by the county for Pacifico.
In a rare consensus, the top two in the DA’s office – Jeff Reisig and Jonathan Raven – were joined for an op-ed by the top two in the public defender’s office – Tracie Olson and Allison Zuvela. But, as council made it clear, the concept of the residential treatment facility was something they supported – but perhaps not there.
Councilmember Lucas Frerichs said that the residential facility was still something he had interest in. “I think the 16 units are something we need in this community,” he said. “However, the navigation center, I’m not sure that’s the appropriate location in the community. Particularly since it’s not central to other services available in this community.”
He thought it would be better closer to the center of the city, with the county center and other existing services being located nearby.
The problem remains – if not there, where?
In the op-ed over the weekend, they note: “Before we can hope to address homelessness, we have to understand the people who experience it.”
They write: “Many people who are homeless struggle with mental illness, addiction or a chronic health issue. All, however, struggle with the stigma and social disgrace associated with their homelessness condition.”
As they point out: “The debate in Davis over the Pacifico complex is emblematic of conversations unfolding in communities throughout the state. With homelessness issues surging to the forefront statewide, finding solutions to the issues of mental health and addiction become increasingly urgent.”
They note: “Recently released data shows that hospital visits by homeless individuals increased by 28% in 2017; 15.7% of these visits were related to a mental disorder while 15.2% involved alcohol and drug use.
“They good news,” they write, “is that there are solutions to homelessness.
“One such solution is the housing-first model, which seeks to first address one of the primary causes of homelessness, namely a lack of safe and appropriate places for vulnerable people to live. Once housing stabilization is achieved, individualized support services can be put in place aimed at improving health, reducing harmful behaviors, or increasing income.”
The bad news that they don’t write, however, is the problem here. Under the best of conditions, community members do not want to live next to people in need of such services. And to make matters worse, Pacifico has not represented the best circumstance.
Thus, the need for collaborative approaches and mental health court falls on deaf ears as soon as such a proposal involves putting such facilities in close proximity to people’s homes.
In their closing, the DA and public defender write: “In Yolo County, the district attorney, public defender, Probation Department, courts and HHSA have worked collaboratively to address these issues. In 2013, we launched Mental Health Court, which focuses on improving treatment engagement, reducing recidivism, reducing jail bed days, and decreasing local and state hospital bed stays.
“The connection between mental illness, substance use disorders, and homelessness is undeniable. Increasing the availability of residential treatment facilities, however, is an important first step to addressing this issue,” they conclude and then add: “We cannot continue perpetuating a cycle where community-based treatment facilities are proposed, only to send staff back to the drawing board searching for a new location after each proposal. As a community, we must embrace the value of rehabilitation not just at the ballot box but also in our own backyards. We respectfully urge the Yolo County community to support Pacifico as a safe place for our most needy residents.”
But the plea largely falls on deaf ears and, at best, a “not here” response.
One neighbor puts it this way: “1752 Drew circle is not the location for such a facility.”
Another argues: “As long as Yolo County Housing isn’t in charge, I’d support looking at new uses of the facility. The first step is to remove Yolo County Housing; next, to have the city, which owns the property, determine the best uses for it.”
Another argues that the article is “not balanced.” They write: “While we agree that solutions have to be found for the mental health handicapped, the article glosses over many issues.”
They write: “You write ‘Chief among these is the myth that the mentally ill are the primary drivers of violent crime.’ This is a condescending statement implying that you have the answers and that the neighborhood is clueless. We do understand the issues, and need to discuss these from all angles, not just your point of view. As elected officials, you must take other views into account.”
Not sure it matters much, but only one of the authors is an elected official. The others are simply sharing their views based on their experience. In the end, the city council has likely already spoken on this.
The council, facing anger over the running of the current facility – or the perception of how the current facility was run – took a middle ground in their approach to Pacifico. But it left open the question – if not there, where?
The views expressed by the district attorney and public defender, while appreciated in the broader context of mental health needs and homelessness, did not go nearly far enough in addressing the locational concerns expressed by either the neighbors or the council.
—David M. Greenwald reporting