Was the Police Raid on Redding’s Homeless a Success or an Exercise in Futility?

It was interesting to witness the police sweep in our community going after the homeless populations primarily along the I-5 corridor and particularly within the city limits of Redding. Based on the blogs, posts made to our local newspaper, Facebook posts, statements by some elected City Council members and other locals, there was a collective cheer that “something finally got done!” We did hear from the Redding police that no additional costs were incurred because of a scheduled training that was postponed in order to facilitate this, although I am not so sure that the officers associated with the Highway Patrol, County Sheriff and the City of Anderson along with our District Attorney’s office came at little to no cost. We heard that over 31 people were arrested, over 60 people were cited and fined for “lifestyle violations,” and over 2,500 pounds of belongings and trash were gathered up. So after all of this, my question remains: “what really got done?” Dr. Douglas McMullin, who works with the homeless in concert with our HOPE medical team, recently presented at a City Council forum on the subject and essentially pointed out that making an impact on the issue of homelessness cannot be adequately addressed through the lens of law enforcement alone. He went on to say, that so much of our law enforcement resources already go to this issue and the problem remains. That said, I am sure that of the arrests some of these individuals needed to be incarcerated because they were a threat to themselves or others. The non-homeless community would be interested to know that some of these same individuals are even more a threat to the homeless than they are to others because who do the homeless go to for protection when threatened?

It was later reported that of the roughly 31 actual arrests, all but five stayed in jail overnight with only one still there a week later. Of the citations, 52 were for “violations of the Redding Municipal Code” around “lifestyle issues.” The DA stated that most of these charges were of very low level infractions that they will not likely be pursued by them because the DA has much more serious crimes to prosecute. There was a statement by the DA that this game of arrest and release was part of a “long-game” of changing behaviors. What is not said here is the cost to the District Attorney’s office in terms of time and resources sorting out all of this while they are still trying to put serious criminals behind bars. Moreover, for those without a previous criminal record, by landing in the “system” the chances of landing a job or even finding a place to live becomes that much more difficult. Of the fines given out, good luck collecting those fines from the homeless, most of whom do not have an address let alone much money. Of the belongings that were taken, including tents and sleeping bags, do the homeless just disappear or do they find new belongings so that they can live? Perhaps this show of force was intended to drive the homeless into the next community until that community drives them back again. The point in all of this was that while the raid on the homeless made some people feel good for the day, the problems of homelessness remains. The community continues to not embrace strategies that help to take people off the streets into housing, which then allows effective interventions to bring numbers down.

For those of us who work in the field of science and medicine we talk about “evidence based.” That is, what is the empirical evidence that an intervention does what it is intended to do? In the stubborn area of homelessness, there is a growing amount of evidence that “police sweeps and arrests” exclusive of effective alternative strategies around housing and case management, have little to no impact on the issue and may in fact make matters worse. Fortunately, there are starting to be some investments made in both housing and case management, an important element in making a dent in preventing and mitigating chronic homelessness. For example, Dr. McMullin and his small group of volunteers have raised a modest amount of money and have housed dozens of chronically homeless and for a good number of them, helped them to connect to resources that will keep them off the street and out of trouble. Most recently, Partnership Health Plan, our local Medi-Cal Managed Care Plan, has sent out a “Request for Proposals” tied to millions of dollars in part looking for projects that will have effective and long-term impact on the issues of housing and homelessness. Only time will tell if these strategies work but they will only have a chance of working if our elected officials fully embrace these strategies rather than wasting resources on police sweeps/DA prosecutions that will predictably do little. However, for one day we can all pretend that the raid was a great success. No doubt this attitude is fueled by real frustrations that the problems around homelessness are much more visible to the general public than ever before. That all said, police action is sometime warranted, but such action around the stubborn issue of homelessness needs to be measured with other interventions around housing and case management for the safety and well-being of our community.

Dean Germano is the chief executive officer of Shasta Community Health Center in Redding.

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24 Responses

  1. prodigal_john says:

    It can take a long time for some of the homeless to get back on their feet.  I did not camp out, but I spent the better part of four years at the Good news Rescue Mission before I got a place of my own and have been doing well for the last ten years. Homelessness is not a problem that can be solved quickly, these people need a lot of help.

  2. Russell K. Hunt says:

    Establish one camp at Metz Rd. for the homeless with appropriate facilities. Use the two houses there, also owned by the City, for social services. Metz is the road to the Clear Creek Wastewater Plant. Churches and others can build them sheds. Ten more police officers can be hired to patrol the parks, trails and greenbelts  if the City transfers the million dollar subsidy of the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association to the RPD. Move the Mission to this site as well to clean up the downtown.

  3. James Montgomery James Montgomery says:

    Everyone knows that the homeless just relocate, and seldom pay fines. However, there is one benefit; the areas they are trashing and polluting do get cleaned up, and the health hazards reduced, albeit by high-paid public employees and civic-minded volunteers, not the people who created the mess.
    I live downtown, and have become less supportive of our current style of homeless services. I have come to believe that for the most part, simply giving people goods and services- the handout welfare system- morally degrades the recipients and unduly burdens the taxpayers. Enabling people to live dissolute lifestyles does not help them in the long run.
    I now think that the primary homeless service we should provide is employment- government as employer of last resort. We are already spending the money, anyway.

  4. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Whether this raid was a success or a failure, the men and women who followed orders to do this need to be recognized for doing a great job.  I can so imagine that someone who trained to serve and protect didn’t imagine cleaning up garbage was part of the job.  I also imagine how disheartening it is  knowing that their best efforts to apprehend law breakers is futile because those folks are back on the street in no time.  This has been going on for years.

     

  5. Sandie says:

    I think the working poor and middle class that are fighting just to barely break even, find this “bend over backwards” mentality  to find a way to provide these unfortunates housing and jobs, just a bit off putting.  Not all, but many of the homeless are in this situation because of choices…bad choices.  How about giving a hand up to the single mom/dad working 2 jobs trying to keep their children fed?

     

  6. David says:

    Have only lived in redding about 2months im 67 and a vetnam vet, have never seen so many homeless people.. really ..so who up here thinks itso cooll haveing all these homeless folks, not cool for me, you dont really care they need food,cloths,medical,a place to live and a dam job..very bad redding . And you folks that live here take it.sad. very. DAVID

  7. Greg Greenberg Greg Greenberg says:

    Dean, you know I respect and agree with you and I appreciate what you wrote. We need to something better for the homeless of the city.  One question brought up in my discussion last night at work was how do we stop the influx of homeless from out of the area?  We already have more than we can handle.

  8. cheyenne says:

    I have already stated in posts and letters to the editor about what we do here in Cheyenne to help and house the homeless.  In Midway, California they are refurbishing storage containers to house the homeless, it was in the Denver Post so it isn’t a secret.  In Phoenix a group, assisted by volunteers including some of the homeless themselves, are building tiny houses for low income and the homeless.  Their goal is to build 1500 of these tiny houses this year.

    Instead of talking about how someone else should do something how about doing something yourself.

    • trek says:

      I cringe when cargo containers are used as homeless shelters. They have to be close if not the most expensive  cost per sq. foot there is for this type conversion. Nothing about them is conventional building. Sure, some container builds look great when finished and rather a nice modern look but are containers being used for the architectural look for the public or the homeless? Army barracks style row apartments would more than meet a homeless persons requirements for far less money. Less cost per sq. ft. equals more housing.

      • cheyenne says:

        Some towns are using containers for the housing of homeless and low income which is a lot better than sleeping out in the open subject to violence, weather and disbursement by LE.  I know first hand here in Cheyenne how different options are being used in homeless/low income housing as I help furnish them.  I cringe at the thought of people who find lame excuses not to help these unfortunates.

  9. conservative says:

    Why do so many homeless choose Redding instead of other county seats like Oroville, Eureka, Marysville, Yuba City, Stockton, etc.?

     

    We get conflicting information.  The newspaper says they are “locals” as if when the housing bubble burst in 2007,  unemployable young people stayed here.  I think it is more likely that they come here from elsewhere in the nation and  state because Redding is more attractive than Oroville, etc.

  10. RCass says:

    In my opinion, t’s purely for public recognition. Even if L.E. is doing the same thing they always do, pictures, news, and social media posts make the General Public feel better about the issue.

  11. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I don’t know why the people of this area are so insistent that most of the homeless are from elsewhere, and are attracted to Redding, and somehow just need to be hazed out of town.  That in spite of what surveys of the homeless have to say.

    What makes you think that they’re not home-grown?  Some magical properties about Redding that I don’t know about?  Is it our thriving economy, the easy availability of good-paying jobs for locals, and our low unemployment rate?  Are Reddingites especially well educated in ways that make them ready for the professions that are thriving in California?  Are Redding citizens naturally free from mental illness, drug abuse, and alcoholism? Are our local veterans of recent wars immune from mental health issues?

    What makes you think that the homeless are attracted to Redding?  Is it the incredible generosity and tolerance of Reddingites, and the plethora of services relative to other places that attract them?  Is it our mild summers and dry winters?  Does heroin grow on trees, and vodka bubble from the drinking fountains?

    I can quickly think of a dozen reasons why I’d leave Redding for some other place if I were homeless, and only one reason to find it attractive: Relative to a lot of places, owing primarily to our physical geography, we have lots of greenbelts that afford places to hide and camp near the core of the city.

    For those interested in addressing this problem through the lens of reality:

    https://www.norcalunitedway.org/sites/norcalunitedway.org/files/Shasta%20Point%20In%20Time%20Report%202016.pdf

    Of particular interest: The percentage of homeless who are transients attracted here for our amazing services (<10%), the percentage of homeless who are life-long natives (almost 60%), and long-term residents who first became homeless while living here (85%).

    First step in addressing any problem: Cast aside all preconceptions and delusions, and take a cold hard look at the facts.

    • cheyenne says:

      Steve, when talking about facts state them all.  85% have lived in Shasta County 1 year, that number drops to 58% for ten year residents which coincides with the start of the recession.  In other words almost half the homeless moved to Redding since the 2006 recession started.  What determines locals?  I have personal insight here as when my youngest daughter was a senior at Anderson one of her friends was an aged-out foster child.  She turned 18 and the foster family kicked her out with out even letting her graduate from high school.  We took her in and housed her until she graduated and found a job and her own housing.  She and her two siblings, also in foster homes, were from out of Shasta County.  So how did those three become locals when they were placed in Shasta County by the courts.

      Also many group homes started in Redding years ago because housing was cheap and for profit owners would bring in kids, already convicted of crimes elsewhere, to live in Redding.  Escapes happened and crimes were committed in Redding by these out of towners.  How did they become locals?

      But, as you say, take a cold hard look no matter how they ended in Redding.  Homelessness is a big problem in the whole nation.  The towns that are getting a grip on homeless are those doing something to aid them.  The towns that are having problems are the towns breaking up the homeless camps which only moves them around.  Those advocating for using Stillwater need to look at Seattle where their homeless encampment is called the “Jungle”.  Seattle is looking at spending $1 million to build a fence around the “Jungle”.  Does Redding want its own version of the “Jungle”?

      Someone said it takes a village to raise a child.  Well its going to take a village to cure homelessness.

       

  12. Christian Gardinier says:

    This was a feel good exercise for the right-wing of our county. At-A-Boy’s to appease the people that ran Redding Police Chief Robert Paoletti and those who are trying to recall politicians that do not support their alt-right ethics and values, do little out nothing to deal with the homeless problem. Maybe it gets a little more money from so called “Christian” based “Prosperity Faith” churches. But a testostorm bo0st of imposing overnight jailing and repetitive psychiatric holds of the homeless does little or nothing to help to help chronic, systemic poverty that result in homelessness, but it makes some feel good and think they are fighting the problem. Housing, substance abuse treatment, clinical case management and a move back to employment through subsidised training has been verified with outcomes based study and results.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Many people who are homeless are Northern California, born raised in a downward spiral towards homelessness, are people you know, friends and family. Many, if not most, have chronic and significant mental health and physical health problems. Remember that in this growing environment of absurd economic inequality, a staggering number of families right here in the richest nation in the history of the world are but one or two paychecks of becoming homeless. Homelessness is not just a moral weakness as described by the right wing politicians and so called ministries. It’s all our problem and a exposes a lacking of moral fortitude to help a population in our community are just a paycheck away from homelessness.

    • Steve says:

      Im a so called right winger and I agree with you and many others of my Ilk do as well and understand the complexities of the homless situation. Being a resent transplant to this county from the bay area where they throw money at those solutions to get them the help they need.

      Unfortunately other counties and nevada bus more of them in. These people tend to be the most dangerous and psychotic ones.

      San Jose set aside money voted by there tax payers to build tiny houses for the homeless but nobone wants then in the neighborhood area.

  13. Russell K. Hunt says:

    And don’t forget the big enabling monster is the Federal government handing out SSI of between $800 and $1300  a month to the addicts and the mentally ill many of whom need supervision. If sheds are built for them with fire camp bathrooms and trash bins etc. on Metz Rd. they can be supervised and it will be cleaner. And  they can pay rent. Stabilize these people’s lives so they can get off the streets. Metz Rd. is isolated from the neighborhoods. It is usable farmland and the City has more of the same immediately to the south i.e. they can also grow their own food. Yes, it will require a security guard. Eight years of destroying and cleaning up homeless camps has been a massive failure !

  14. Art McBride says:

    Thank you Mr. Germano for joining the conversation.

    I too had some concern about the “Sweep and Harass” approach to the homeless issue. In responding to Councilwoman Winter’s published support for the effort I asked, “what next?” I thought that the follow up expense, (cost of incarcerate and release, following up on and processing citations, court time, DA time  and law enforcement follow up paper work time and the homeless just moving to another camp), might make the cost and result not worth the effort.

    This tit for tat – you harass us and we harass you – effort to frustrate the homeless as much as they frustrate us in hopes that they will leave is the strategy preferred by a segment of our community which is vocal, demanding and growing. The longer the problem persists, the homeless remain visible, and property crime remains high the louder the cry for something to be done. “Sweep and Harass” is something. Something visible. Something that shows law enforcement is at work.

    I agree that evidence based solutions are the ones that will work. But we have all seen what has happened when Councilwoman Schreder attempted to pursue that approach to the homeless problem. She was opposed at every turn. She raised private money to survey and define the homeless problem. She brought experts, who had success in addressing the problem, to speak to the community. She proposed solutions which have worked in other communities. And all of these efforts were met with a chorus of either , “we don’t want to pay for that” or “it is the charities job” or “my group or organization should be in charge because we know best” or ……. And now there is a group attempting to recall her because they are angry that she would propose to do something that has proven to work.

    To really solve this problem we have to get over ourselves and work together. This “my way or no way” approach is not working. But I don’t see any progress toward a unified approach. Just each side poo pooing the other leading to a pile of poo poo rather than productive resolution.

    Thanks for your work in the community and trying to be part of the solution.

     

     

  15. Frank Treadway says:

    Mr. Germano’s article is well placed. However, when walking the streets of Downtown Redding I see a different picture. One that has existed for easily 10 years. And that is since the removal of the Downtown covered mall, the re-location of businesses to Dana Dr. and the placement of the cement cauldron called The Promenade, transients, vagrants and AB109 folks have simply moved in.  The vast majority of these 3 cohorts are not from Redding, but have landed here from elsewhere. Why ? Who knows. Speculation abounds.  But the AB109 folks {some 300+ of them} can’t leave Shasta County until their probation time is up. Some will choose to stay in Redding, others will move back to their former location. Some will continue to engage in crime, others will not.  It’s a maddening circle for law enforcement. As mentioned in Mr. Germano’s article, help is on the way,  things are moving at a rather fast pace to deal with the transients/vagrants.  And for those who think it’s a waste of time to hand-out tickets, do so-called round-ups, what is your resolve ? You continually rant about ‘what is being done for our community’ and then the law enforcement responds and you go nuts as to why they did it. Let’s make up our minds here folks.

  16. Suzie Haberland says:

    Each one of us could end up homeless in short order due to an event we have no control over (medical emergency, loss of job, stock market crash, natural disaster, war, etc.)  Some of us may even make poor choices that result in our loss of housing.  The problem is a complex one and the only way to solve the problem is to first define the problem, and second to describe what success looks like.  This community has not been willing to participate in such an exercise to define the problem — at the county, city, business, or citizen level — in an organized and sustained way.  Until this works happen, there will be a lot of great efforts that fall short of their potential, continued finger pointing, and some less than humane solutions that continue to alienate the homeless from their communities.

  17. Janet says:

    I’m interested in the “Request for Proposals” Mr. Germano mentioned. “Most recently, Partnership Health Plan, our local Medi-Cal Managed Care Plan, has sent out a “Request for Proposals” tied to millions of dollars in part looking for projects that will have effective and long-term impact on the issues of housing and homelessness.” More individuals need to be aware of this, and perhaps some over-worked social worker, or one stuck behind a desk will know how to channel their epiphanies.

    I’ve thought that maybe Shasta College should offer classes in grant writing in conjunction with the city offering rewards for finding grants that actually pay into our city.

  18. Frank Treadway says:

    The Partnership Health Plan is in progress to my understanding. And not completed by a single person, but a large collaborative group with several meetings and input. Expect good outcome.   I believe Shasta Community Foundation does offer grant writing sessions. Writing grants can be complicated, especially if one has not engaged in such. I suggest going online and search for grant writing 101 and you’ll see the parameters that exist.

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