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A Possible Homeless Day Center in Redding Draws Mixed Reactions at Community Forum

Photo by Sam Allen.

REDDING, Calif. – Should a day center be established in Redding? And if so, what role, if any, should the city play in it?

Those were the central questions posed to the community Monday during a special meeting of the Redding City Council. Councilwoman Missy McArthur had asked for the forum after a proposed sit-lie ordinance was shelved last month.

Mayor Rick Bosetti set the ground rules early: The council was interested in hearing from the community, but everybody should keep in mind that the city lacks the cash to be a significant player in any day center.

Downtown business owner Sam Allen

Such a center would be awesome, according to downtown business owner Sam Allen, but it can’t simply function as a handout. “There needs to be some accountability,” she said. Allen said her Yuba Street boutique, CAROUSEL, is at “ground zero” as far as a daily gathering spot for the homeless and others looking for a shady spot to hang out, get drunk, deal drugs, fight, relieve themselves and generally be a nuisance.

“I’ve seen it all,” Allen said of her two months at the store. Her account of brazen drug dealing, binge drinking, fights and medical emergencies was chronicled in A News Café in July.

“I hope we can come together with solutions,” Allen added. Asked by McArthur if she thought the homeless who assemble around her shop would go to a day center, Allen said the younger ones would “maybe” go but “the older ones are so far gone they don’t know where they are.”

“Can this go on? Is it legal? Can the homeless do this to our city? Drug deals going down on our sidewalks? C’mon! This is ridiculous.” Those were the questions and observations from John Mattera, who said he’s been a Redding resident since 1975. He expressed support for the creation of a committee to look into the day center idea, as long as the group had representatives “from both sides.”

“I am not unsympathetic; however I feel that most of them are in those positions by the choices they made,” Mattera said, adding that he would rather see tax dollars going toward more police officers.

The Rev. Ann Corrin called for “a shift of consciousness”  in dealing with Redding’s homeless problem. “It’s incumbent on us to stretch our minds and imaginations.” Too often, the Pilgrim Church minister said, “we create an industry of those who take care of the poor.”

A consortium of stakeholders, including the business community and citizens, can move toward solutions that reach beyond the issues of homelessness. “But it has to be a broad coalition and not a fiefdom…we don’t need another entity cutting into the pie, we need to create a new pie.”

As the CEO of Living Hope Compassion Ministry, which includes a day center in the Parkview neighborhood, Michael Mojarro cautioned the council that such a center is a huge undertaking and even more intimidating without adequate resources.

Jessica Delaney, coordinator of the city and Shasta County Homeless Continuum of Care Council, encouraged the council and audience members to get involved with the organization. “We’re missing a community voice. We don’t see them coming to the table. Come talk to the experts,” Delaney urged. The council meets on the second Tuesday of the month at 3 p.m. in the Caldwell Conference Room at City Hall. “I’m excited we’re having this conversation,” she added.

Following the speakers, McArthur noted the worthwhile ideas presented and said she’d support the formation of a subcommittee to explore the ins and outs of a day center and have it report back to the council “to see if or how we want to get involved.”

Councilman Patrick Jones said he did not support a homeless day center and likened some of the current programs to people who stock a cabin with provisions, only to have bears break in and steal food. “We must stop feeding the bears…there are programs that mean well but have adverse consequences.

“We can have compassion but we need to be tougher. We can’t be a Mecca for the homeless,” Jones said.

Councilman Gary Cadd admitted the answer to Redding’s homeless situation eludes him, but he said conversations like Monday’s forum are a step in the right direction. He also reiterated his concern that the city “doesn’t have much money to put in to this—most will have to come from the community.”

Bosetti said he’d be happy to facilitate a meeting of interested parties to further address the issue. “Let’s take pieces that are working and build on it,” said Bosetti, a former Major League baseball player who concluded the meeting by mentioning Reggie Jackson, the famed New York Yankees slugger who once boasted he was “the straw that stirred the drink.”

“Just like Reggie. We need straws to stir the drink,” Bosetti said.

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.