Citizen Groups Meet in Library Park With a Message for Vagrants: This is Our Park, Too

Please join me in welcoming Richard DuPertuis to A News Cafe.com for this first of many stories. We’re glad you’re here, Richard. By the way, I’m on vacation. The Weight is Over will resume when I return. – Doni Chamberlain

About 10 people —  members of Facebook groups Take Back Redding and Shasta Support Services, most who had never met in person – gathered for a meet-and-greet lunch in Library Park noon Wednesday.

The group traded stories and debated the best ways to address the growing homeless situation in their city.

Shannon Hicks, center, chat with a group of concerned citizens over lunch in Library Park Wednesday. These folks, most of whom had never met face to face before, came together through Facebook groups Take Back Redding and Shasta Support Services to deliver a message to vagrants loitering nearby: This park is ours.

Shannon Hicks, center, chats with a group of concerned citizens over lunch in Library Park Wednesday. By their presence, they hoped to deliver a message to vagrants loitering nearby: “This park is ours.”

“I came up with the idea that citizens should start using public spaces so the law-abiding citizens could feel safe,” said Take Back member Shannon Hicks.

“We’re not out to confront or engage,” he said. “We’re just making our presence known.”

Hicks said the plan was to displace the denizens of this small strip of grass and concrete in the shadow of the historic Lorenz building; people who use that area to routinely do drugs, have sex and use the grounds as a bathroom in plain view of the public.

He said the other purpose of the lunchtime gathering was to meet with some of the people he’d grown to know online.

“I work not too far from here,” Chris Fazzari said. “This is the local park for lunch, but it’s very uncomfortable being here. When I first moved here, it was a great place. I didn’t feel like I was invading someone’s sleep.”

A denizen of Library Park in downtown Redding stopped by to play with a dog owned a member of a group who gathered for lunch Wednesday. Their purpose was to show him and the hordes of loiterers like him that this park was for the enjoyment of law-abiding citizens.

A denizen of Library Park in downtown Redding stopped by to play with a dog owned a member of a group who gathered for lunch Wednesday. Their purpose was to show him and the hordes of loiterers like him that this park was for the enjoyment of law-abiding citizens.

A slender, middle-aged man wearing three layers topped by a black leather jacket approached the group. One member’s dog, Analyn, stood and barked, holding him off.  The man grinned, revealing a gap from a missing tooth, as he laughed and lunged in play. After a minute he moved on.

“They’ll get in your personal space,” said Vicki Loe. “You have to constantly be on your guard. You can say no, whatever. They don’t care.”

Another woman, Nancy Baker, shared her experience.

“Even at the bus stop, when you’re sitting there waiting for a connection,” Baker said. “I won’t bring my 2-year-old granddaughter here. I won’t bring my 17-year-old granddaughter. And it’s not just this bus stop.”

Chris Fazzari agreed. “I came to enjoy lunch with some people I might enjoy being with,” adding he had also mingled with members of this luncheon online.

Rachel Whitaker describes to members of a concerned citizen lunch group her concept of a homeless day resource center in Redding. Her petition seeking support to convince the city to establish such a facility triggered a debate with members of the group, who had chosen this park for their lunch Wednesday to protest the homeless who live there.

Rachel Whitaker describes to members of a concerned citizen lunch group her concept of a homeless day resource center in Redding. Her petition seeking support to convince the city to establish such a facility triggered a debate with members of the group, who had chosen this park for their lunch Wednesday to protest the homeless who live there.

A debate began among the people in the park when a woman, Rachel Whitaker,  arrived with a petition calling for the support of opening a new homeless center in Redding.

Whitaker, who revealed she had gone through Redding’s homeless support services as a homeless felon a year ago, said she wanted more support than is provided by the Good News Rescue Mission.

“The Mission is not open to all,” she said. “You have to be part of the program.”

She explained how the Mission would contrast with her proposed program.

“The homeless day resource center is open to anybody who wants to take a shower, who wants to look for work,” Whitaker said. “They’ll have to put in some work time. We’re not going to let them hang around doing nothing. We want to give them some purpose so they can build up their self-esteem.”

Baker posed a scenario: “Men will come in and be so out of it they won’t be able to do anything,” Baker said. “Will you allow them in?”

“Not all homeless are drug addicts,” replied Whitaker. “If people are psychotic and can’t get along with other people, we handle it like anyone would.”

Shasta Support Services co-founder Dale Ball advised Whitaker to take another look at the Mission.

“They’ve made a lot changes in the past year,” he argued. “They provide all of that.”

Sharon Smedley, who runs a sober living home for women, said such a community center wouldn’t be able to handle the mentally ill, and that she would rather see the city establish a professional mental health facility.

“I would not mind having taxes raised if there was some accountability, if the money goes for crime prevention and public safety,” Smedley said.

Ball said another reason he came to the lunch Wednesday was to show support for businesses, which he said were plagued by homeless problems.

Annie Goldbraith, manager of Deja Vu restaurant, located in the lower floor of the Lorenz opposite Library Park sighed and said, “Oh, yeah. It’s a daily problem. Let’s leave it at that.”

The business closest to the crowds who loiter on the stage in the park is Carousel, a womens clothing store. Suzanne Russell took ownership of Carousel a few months ago.

Carousel

“I lived downtown, and I worked downtown, so I knew what I was getting myself into,” Russell said.

“I’ve had to kick people out for shoplifting, charging their phones, or just wanting to hang out. I apologize to customers a lot and walk them to their cars.”

At that moment the atmosphere in her shop was quiet and peaceful. Four or five customers milled about the displays, including a woman with two small children, who purchased an item, and left the store with a smile.

“Inside, you don’t feel fear,” said Russell.

“But when it’s empty, and it’s just me — a buck twenty — and there’s people shooting up and smoking crack pipes right out there, that’s the moment it’s scary.”

Richard DuPertuis
Richard DuPertuis has written in Redding for a few years now. During his 12 years in Dunsmuir, his stories and photographs appeared in Siskiyou and Shasta County newspapers. He can be reached on Facebook.
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19 Responses

  1. Randall Smith says:

    Great idea and story!  Our precious public places need this outpouring.  Dale and Shannon for President; much better and engaged than what we have presently.

  2. KarenC says:

    The bottom line is that the City of Redding has a No Loitering ordinance in place and it is not being enforced.  We need to push for this to happen.  We do not need to build tiny houses or set up more places to attract those who do not want, (because of their own choosing) to follow the rules of the community or proper hygine.  There is too much talk, too many meetings, too many dollars being spent on research by outside sources, and nothing is getting better.

    Just do it!

    Yesterday evening as my husband and I were getting ready for dinner, I  noticed a scruffy, very thin male with backpack smoking a cigarette and stading near his bike watching us and  talking to himself.  We watched for an uncomfortable amount of time before I decided to take action.  I went outside and listenedd to him telling me some crazy story about delivering a birthd ay present to someone but they were not at home and on and on.  I finally told him to move on, that he did not belong in the neighborhood.  He promptly hopped on his bike and rode away.  They are coming into our neighborhoods folks.  Why are we tax paying, hard working citizens of Redding allowing this unlawful element to take away what we have worked hard to accomplish?

    I loved the comment in Richard’s article about the dog barking and holding the approaching homeless person away.  Dogs sense when it is time to be defensive.  We humans should take note.

     

     

     

  3. Thank you, Richard, for covering this, and on such short notice. Welcome to A News Cafe.com.

  4. Shannon Hicks says:

    Great work Richard. A News Cafe’s coverage is key to encouraging members of our community to engage strategically reclaiming our city’s parks, open spaces and public facilities for the safe use by all.

  5. EasternCounty says:

    Our situation is very low on the totem pole of the vagrant/vandal problem, but it’s still disconcerting.  We have a second home in Redding in the Parkview Neighborhood of urban renewal craftsman homes.  Cute neighborhood but it’s smack dab in the middle of several hangouts of this element:  two missions, South City Park, unSafeway, and the Cypress Avenue Bridge.  Last week when we were down, someone had broken branches off neighbors’ trees and stacked them in our front yard along with a shopping cart stolen from Orchard Nutrition.   I notified Orchard, and they sent a staff member who had a pickup to our house,  we loaded the cart, and it went “home.”  We’ve also had to lock our yard gates because people were coming in and leaving their trash.  Our neighbor found a man sleeping in their back yard.  Small potatoes?  I suppose.  But vandalism is still an invasion.  I’m very aware that many of the perpetrators have mental problems, but many choose this lifestyle, and they are the ones who should be herded to a pole tent in Stillwater so that residents can enjoy our parks and our own yards without being harassed.

    Hats off to the Take Back Redding folks.

  6. Gary says:

    Hope to see many more stories from Mr. DuPertuis and his quest for immortality is achieved!

  7. jobs says:

    It’s hard for some people to understand that some of us are just no good and most likely will be this way their whole life.  If a person chooses to be a waste, let them be one.  Heroin and meth are in Evey little town now all across America thanks to Obama.  Please stop the drugs from coming into our country.

    • Breakfast Guy says:

      So now you (and others) blame Obama. Ever hear of right-wing obstructionism against the first President of color?

  8. David M. Kerr says:

    No other county in California is advocating housing first.  No other California newspaper is pushing housing first.  Redding has become a magnet for heroin addicts.  With the newspaper and county social service agencies going all out to attract drug addicts and petty criminals, the trend should be apparent to anyone.  Shasta county could well have twice as many heroin addicts in five years.

    Part of the problem is what the county is doing to make Redding so attractive to drug addicts.  Another important part is what is happening in Stockton, Marysville, Oroville, Eureka etc.  Those cities are being over-run by criminals who prey on the heroin addicts and the mentally ill.  A violent predator pumped up on cocaine or meth can rob or beat a heroin addict or pot user too stoned to defend himself.

    The U.S. census recently reported that metro Redding is losing population.  Gary Cadd on talk radio disclosed that sales tax receipts are trending down.   Neither of those facts are reported in the newspaper.  The wave of violent crime to the south and west is pushing less violent criminals, homeless, heroin addicts and mentally ill to Redding, which has become the most attractive place in California to be a heroin addict.

  9. David M. Kerr says:

    The newspaper is pushing the idea that we are like medieval peasants who live their lives within 50 miles of where they were born.   In fact, Californians are highly mobile.  Violent crime in the south is pushing the less violent , the mentally ill, and drug users numbed into passivity to Redding.  The kind of crime in Stockton and Sacramento which drives people to Redding is not reported in FBI crime statistics.  A heroin user or mentally ill person who is robbed of his cash, drugs, EBT card and fake ID does not report that to the police.

    Who benefits by the taxpayers leaving California?  Who benefits by the welfare cases flooding into the North State?

  10. jobs says:

    I knew that giving people money for making fatherless babies would not end well.  I know some families that have been on welfare for five (5) generations now.  To many freeloaders.

  11. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Interesting how certain types of stores bring out the odd mouth-breather.

  12. Tina says:

    I agree with what the lady said about the mission. The way they run that place is not very welcoming. I know that first hand. The women who were running the part that were the dorms were rude and mean. I had no idea I had to sign up for a shower so I didnt get one even though I asked. I had no idea I would never ever want  to go there again.  I didnt expect to feel like that about the place.

  13. Bob says:

    You can push the homeless around all you want; they are still not going away!  The folks who complain the most are the least likely to work for a solution to homelessness.  Taking back Library Park is not a solution.

    The State of Utah has eliminated 90% of their chronic homeless population by providing effective services, yet the group of people featured in this story want to recall the only City Council person who has proposed the Utah model for Shasta County.  Go figure!

    I am surprised Doni printed this story without comment from those of us working toward true solutions.  This is not professional journalism at its best.

    • Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

      Bob, if you would like to write an article with your viewpoint on this or any other issue, feel free to submit it to donig.anewscafe@gmail.com. This article was printed a year ago so there must some progress on this issue.

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