Redding: Your Frog is Cooked

If I had a dollar for every word A News Cafe.com has published about the homeless, transients, street people, and homeless encampment clean-ups, I’d be an extremely wealthy, retired woman living in my Waikiki beach house, sipping sidecars and writing my screenplay.

Like many of you, I’ve gradually adapted to what should be unacceptable anywhere in the world, let alone Redding, California.

I’ve adapted to living among, driving past, walking around and avoiding eye contact with what looks like the walking dead: flat-eyed, filthy, crazed, drunk, tweaking, toothless. All human beings – somebody’s sons and daughters.

I’ve adapted to knowing it’s considered unsafe to walk the river trail alone. Even with a companion, not only do I bring pepper spray, but I carry it with my finger on the button at the ready.

I’ve adapted to the ever-present security guards at the store I’ve shopped since I was 9 – now affectionately known as the unSafeway – a place that once stayed open 24 hours, but now closes at midnight, its solution to the countless police calls for shoplifting and fights there.

I’ve adapted to driving even more cautiously at night, on high alert for people hauling huge bags and backpacks, whizzing down the middle of the street on too-small bikes, sometimes even carrying a second bike in one arm.

I’ve adapted from a point of time four years ago when a male friend and I routinely walked the length and back of Cypress Street Bridge at night, because it was so beautiful to see those blue-hued cone-shaped lights, with the moon above and the water below. Today, for the most part, the pedestrian paths along the Cypress Street Bridge are used by street people, homeless and transients. Literally, you could not pay me to walk that bridge at night now, alone or otherwise.

The Cypress Street Bridge is just one of many places that have been taken over by transients, homeless and street people. Other places include the library, sports bleachers and parks.

If it weren’t so sad, the story I heard from one woman recently would be funny. She was driving to the library and saw the bleachers packed with people. She thought it odd that a baseball game would be playing on a weekday morning. When she looked more closely, she realized the stands were filled with street people.

I keep thinking about Redding’s gradual decline, the public’s adaptation to our new normal, and the metaphor of boiling a frog. Turn up the heat slowly enough under what started as a live frog in a pan of cool water and eventually you’ll have fully cooked, seriously dead frog.

Sometimes I wonder if Reddingites adapt more easily to our supremely crappy state of our city because of our extreme heat. We’re used to sucking it up and dealing with the heat’s discomfort. Only newbies, babies and heat weanies complain about Redding’s heat.

The thing is, sometimes, whether it’s a frog being slowly poached to death, or a city falling apart, having a high pain threshold may not be in our best interest. Redding’s in major hot water, and it needs to wake up and do something before the city’s dead, and all the good people have left.

There was a time when I was a pretty decent ambassador for Redding. But my heart’s not in it anymore. And no exaggeration, for about the last year or so, as I drive around town, I sometimes find myself saying these words: Get – me – out – of – here.

Of course, I am still in love with our north state’s surrounding beauty – its lakes and natural wonders  – but the city itself is depressing as hell. Truth be told, if it weren’t for the fact that I have a twin and two grandchildren in this city, I’d be setting my sights on moving. Where? I don’t know. St. Helena? Elk Grove? No place too far a drive from Redding.

I return to the same questions: Am I kidding myself. Is it like this everywhere?

This topic is on my mind even more than usual after my up-close encounter with downtown Redding last week. As I drove out of my beloved Garden Tract, I noticed the usual collection of people pushing shopping carts full of stuff. I don’t even give them a second glance any more. I’ve adapted.

As I drove west up Placer, there was a trio with sleeping bags and blankets. Check-out time at Library Park.

A half a block further was a young man with a dog. The guy had a tarp-covered pile that was about four times his width, and nearly reached his shoulders. The tower of stuff was on wheels of some sort.

A few feet beyond the young guy was a bearded, elderly man, eyes closed, one foot in the gutter, sitting on the sidewalk, slumped against a sign pole not far from Wilda’s.

Finally, at my destination – the post office – I parked my car. After I left the post office I walked down Yuba Street to see my friend, Sam Allen, who owns Carousel, a woman’s boutique.

Allen’s huge shop windows have given her graphic views of things like drug deals, fights, high people, drunk people, passed out people and lots of police and ambulance calls. She’s cleaned human waste from her shop steps and washed urine from her windows, left behind by street people. Allen has shared her stories and photos here before. 


On Tuesday Allen just shook her head as she watched across the railroad tracks as a police officer approached a young woman who’s created an epic mini-city of cardboard and garbage on Yuba Street. The next time Allen and I looked toward the tracks, the woman and cop were gone, but a young man in purple with a backpack was picking through the woman’s abandoned collections.

Allen talked about the revolving door of characters who pass by her window each day, many of whom have made themselves at home – literally – in the newly opened Library Park, closed during Lorenz Building’s seismic construction. She told about a young black woman who’d been in the park for days and some very cold nights. Allen said she was concerned, so she reported the woman to social services. Later on someone official looking came and spoke to the woman, and at some point someone else brought the woman a sleeping bag and a tent. The tent disappeared quickly. Allen learned later that for starters, the woman was schizophrenic, and pregnant.

“But I think she’s moved on,” Allen said. “That’s good. I hope she got help.”

Doubtful.

I left Allen’s shop and took a walk through Library Park where I found  a young black woman sleeping on a concrete slab against the Library Park stage upon which bands perform during Marketfest.

A few feet away was a man with short-cropped gray hair and a plaid shirt. His shoes were off, showing clean white socks, as he slept curled up on a sleeping bag.

I stopped and spoke with one of the few upright, awake people in the park at 10 a.m., a young woman with strawberry-blond hair. She sat on a bench flanked by a cart stuffed with a peace-symbol backpack, and bedding decorated with daisies and Tweetie Birds, topped by a tampon. Her eyes were bright. I asked if I could take her photo, that I was writing about the homeless. She said yes.

As a reporter, I know better than to interject my opinion about anything to a subject. I’m supposed to be the observer. But seeing her there beside clean bedding that looked like it was just stripped from a 9-year-old’s room; it just got to me.

“You look so … young to be out here by yourself,” I said.

She smiled and said she was older than she looked: 20. When I remarked that 20 wasn’t old, she said she felt old.

No wonder.

 

I asked where she was from, and she said here – Redding – that her mother had died and the young woman had no place to go. I asked how she gets food. She said someone gave her a honey stick that morning, that she gets by. I asked about the guy on the grass nearby, sprawled out on a blue blanket next to his own mounds and carts of belongings.

“A friend,” she said.

I used to think The Solution was my Pollyanna idea of a huge ranch, where the most down-and-out people would have food and shelter, and could develop a sense of purpose by doing all kinds of things, like raising chickens, and milking cows and growing gardens and canning fruit. But alas, as they say in psychology, I was projecting. For me, I could not imagine a world where I wasn’t being productive, where people weren’t counting on me.

But that was a simplistic solution to a much more complicated problem. And make no mistake about it: Redding, we have a major problem. And if you’ve noticed, so far, none of the “solutions” are working.

One-way bus tickets may seem like a bright idea, but they just pass these people to another city. No solution there.

Arrests don’t work, because our jails are full and the arrested will be released and re-arrested, sometimes dozens of times for the same person. No solution there.

Bigger jails aren’t the answer, either, because eventually those people may be released back into society, and then what? No solution there.

Fines – for loitering, public intoxication,  sitting or lying on public sidewalks, whatever – don’t work because these people have no money. No solution there.

Clearing out illegal homeless encampments restores natural habitats, but just as squeezing a water balloon displaces the water from one side to the other, clearing encampments simply chases the homeless to another area – Lake Boulevard to Henderson Open Space, and back again – each time leaving tons of garbage in their wake. No solution there.

For the generic homeless – people who need a place to live because of such life circumstances as unemployment or catastrophic illness, let’s find transitional housing. That’s on its way via programs like The Shasta Humanity Project. That is one solution.

And for the criminals, the AB109ers, that’s another topic for another day. What I will propose here in a second would leave the jails and prisons available for the hard-core criminals nobody wants released, especially not because of over-crowding.

The biggest issue isn’t about parolees, or people down on their luck who just need a place to live until they get back on their feet.

The Big Issue is mental illness. Mental illness is the reason we’re seeing people who look like the walking dead in Redding, and we’re seeing it in spades, everything from heroin junkies and meth addicts to veterans with untreated PTSD and people like the sleeping woman in Library Park, suffering from schizophrenia.

Shasta County, as we’ve reported here before, fails miserably when it comes to helping the seriously mentally ill. Stories here on A News Cafe.com about young men like Colby Brousseau , Josh Valdez and Thom Jones are poster-child examples of Shasta County’s substandard mental health care.

Here’s my proposal: What if Shasta County built a state-of-the-art mental health facility with hundreds of beds, something along the lines of the Veterans Home, but for the mentally ill? One component would be a treatment center for those battling addictions, rather than filling the jails with people whose addictions turned them to criminals.

It would put people to work building it, and after it was opened, it would keep people in jobs for the rest of the facility’s life.

It would get the seriously mentally ill off the streets, from beneath bridges and in parks, and give them food, treatment and shelter.

It could put the north state on the map as the place that found one way to help the mentally ill.

It could bring revenue from other counties that need somewhere to send their mentally ill.

Most of all, it would care for the least among us in a way that illustrates that we value these people and believe them just as worthy of a life of dignity and hope as the rest of us.

After all, it’s not OK for a seemingly civilized city to allow human beings to live like feral animals, scrounging for food, shelter, and places to sleep and shit, as we look the other way.

And it’s not OK for a 20-year-old woman to feel old before her time.

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

77 Responses

  1. Randall R. Smith Randall R. Smith says:

    Who wrote “It is easy to propose impossible remedies.”? Such an institution and the cadre necessary to staff it would be similar in size, if not larger, than both of our current acute care hospitals with an annual budget exceeding $200M. Finding construction funding and operating revenue for such a place in a village which can not fix its roads, care for its public areas without massive volunteer effort, answer a call for serious police help in less than 15 minutes and provide other needed services and infrastructure seems a tiny bit difficult.

    Observations about the problem and flight risk of those with alternatives are real and growing. Lincoln warned destruction will not come from outside, but we can only be taken down from inside. Likewise, help for Redding will not arrive from afar. Looking away or adapting offer little hope. Picking up, taking a stand, stop enabling and holding our public ground are something everyone can and should do starting today.

  2. Bill Siemer Bill Siemer says:

    Doni – Great story. I don’t know about a workable solution. I do know that I am finding more trash and sleeping bags in the brush and fields at Turtle Bay since the encampments have been cleaned out.

  3. Avatar david kerr says:

    I would like to see what a criminologist or sociologist has to say about Redding, Oroville and Chico’s future.

    I see it getting steadily much worse. The gangs in the Bay Area prey on the homeless who come here to escape. Orville, Chico and Redding have much less violent crime than the Bay area, and violent crime causes the displacement. What violent crime we have here is mostly store security engaging with shoplifters, not gang-style.

    Redding, Chico and Oroville have a mild climate, lots of places to camp with access to water for drinking and washing.

    It is very likely we will see a recession in the next five years. The last began in December 2007. We are due about now. America and the E.U. have accumulated many economic excesses. Wait till the trends of the drug culture, the welfare state and rising homelessness in this region collide with next recession.

    California has the highest rate of poverty of the fifty states when cost of living is considered (as it should be). California has 33% of America’s welfare cases and 12% of the population. It is only a matter of time before it hits 40%.

  4. Avatar cheyenne says:

    I left Shasta County nine years ago. I worked custodian at the Redding high schools, the last few years at Shasta and SLC. While we did have dumpster divers at all hours of the night I never felt threatened. When I would drive home through downtown Redding, anywhere from 11pm to 3am, the streets were empty and I was on the lookout for drunk drivers. And sometimes I stopped at the unsafeway without incident.
    During the day there were people holding cardboard signs near the highways, but they expressed a ride not money. The only time I was approached by a pan handler was by the Greyhound Depot.
    I will ask the same question I have seen asked by others who used to live in Shasta County. What happened to Redding?
    Cheyenne is a town of about 60,000 but when I check the facilities to aid the homeless and poor there are numerous organizations offering food, housing, education, help with rent/utilities.
    Comea House, Wyoming Coalition for the homeless, Climb Wyoming, Uplift Wyoming, Community Action of Laramie County, Aces, Wyoming Safehouse. One thing all these organizations have in common is donations. The city and county do allocate money but the bulk of the finances comes from donations. VFW Post 11453 donated $10,000, Cheyenne Frontier Days donates thousands, the Bar Bucks program brings in hundreds, and community churches add not just money but food, shelter and rent/utilities help. Comea House has a free medical clinic across the street. All these programs have been in service for years.
    This is what it takes to aid not just the homeless but the working poor. Can Redding do it?

  5. Avatar Michelle says:

    100 beds? I am not sure that is enough. Just thinking out loud…out of my class of 20 students, 7 come from fragmented homes that are, or have been, under supervision of Child Protective Services which means untold trauma has occurred–but more than likely, is still occurring in their homes.

    These young children are all at risk. They all struggle in school whether it be academically, or socially in their fractured home lives. Most are in school from morning until evening in after school care. We give them the best we can at school but their homes are not welcoming loving places children thrive in.

    No matter what you hear, a teacher is not the most important person in a child’s life. Their parents are. These parents struggle daily, they do the best they can in most situations, but their living environment is not the best example for raising children with life skills that best prepare them for growing up and getting jobs.

    For most, their lives will derail in their teen years when they succumb to the allures of drugs and other unsavory temptations they have witnessed in their pivotal growing years. Consequently, many of these lives will continue to be fraught with the same issues there parents faced. Homeless being just one of them.

  6. Avatar david kerr says:

    Redding is a beautiful place. It was supposed to be a Palm Springs, Lake Tahoe or Coronado, where equity refugees would retire.

    Redding could attract more investment. A small federal, state or private prison employing 2-4% of the workforce would be a stimulus. Redding could attract group recovery homes. Prescott and Wickenburg, AZ are awash with them. Prescott has a population of 40,000 and 153 group recovery homes.

    Redding will not be the Bay Area where engineers design products like Iphones to be built in China. Tech is becoming more concentrated near universities like Stanford, Michigan, MIT.

    Redding, Chico and Oroville can get used to homelessness and petty crime. Piedmont, a wealthy city of million dollar homes is just north of Oakland. Its citizens have adapted. They have security systems, insurance and know the areas to avoid in Oakland and Berkeley.

  7. A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

    As the King said, “‘Tis a puzzlement!” Well written (as yours always are), but not only that, you gave some well organized thoughts and possibilities. Adapting is certainly one solution. We see it in nature all the time. Doesn’t mean that it’s the desirable solution . . . or even the best solution. Thank you, Doni as well as all the responders, for thoughtful input to our common problems.

  8. Avatar Virginia says:

    Good column, Doni, as usual……. Thanks for the light shinning on the problem(s).

    Has anyone thought of asking the Gates Foundation to for some of their funds they earn in the USA to be spend many millions right here in Redding?

    What a novel thought it is to help our helpless here, first, with a portion of their funds they and other foundations spend, before going out of our Country to help others!

  9. Avatar Richard says:

    Thank you for this important and poignant piece of journalism. As one who has lived on Waldon St. just south of the old St. Joseph’s cemetery for the past 35 years, I have been made acutely aware of the changes in Redding’s quality of life. Our Neighborhood Watch is comprised of an economically diverse group of people, from the relatively affluent to those on public assistance and HUD, and we all share a concern and commitment to reversing the deterioration that we have seen daily for the past 3-4 years. Our old but beloved neighborhood has been significantly affected by those with no regard for the rights of others—illegal camping, copious trash in and around Calaboose Creek, with needles, broken glass, human feces, discarded clothing, and vacant buildings vandalized and broken into. But, we have made concerted efforts to repeatedly clean the creek, raised funds to have the Cal Fire Sugar Pine inmates clear vegetation from the creek’s banks, collaborated with Chief Paoletti/RPD, with Jonathan Anderson of the GNRM, and with members of the City Council and City of Redding staff. We also participated in the recent cleanup of the large transient camp not far from us on West St.

    While we financially support efforts to assist the homeless who make an effort to help themselves, we can neither tolerate nor condone the behaviors of some that have so degraded our community. Though we could certainly afford to relocate, we will not abandon our friends and neighbors who are not as fortunate, and will continue to shop at Safeway, visit the library, walk to and from downtown, and work for neighborhood safety and the protection of our environment. We appreciate those like Randall Smith who have contributed so much time and energy to making Redding a better place, and encourage others to act while there is still time.

    • Avatar denise says:

      Doni – great piece! Gosh I hate seeing your rose colored glasses getting fogged. If anyone can see us all through this, it is you. You do call it as you see it and you have a great mind.

      Richard, thank you for your post! I am a Parkview alumni and miss living over there. Russell Street was my home from ~1988-2002.

      From my perspective, I am not sure there are more homeless, but certainly they are more visible. This is due to brush clearing by the river and of course camp sweeps. I can attest that the camps existed before but we just did not see them.

      The condition is very much in front of all of us. I really feel for the downtown shop keepers, for that is the direction the homeless have been pointed. The vandalism and petty theft makes me think of mental illness as the common denominator.

      Especially appreciated is your where there is a will there’s a way attitude. I too will keep patronizing UnSafeway, going to the library, walking the Cypress Avenue Bridge and keeping my downtown hair appointments. I shall be polite and loving to anyone who crosses my path. When that doesn’t work, I won’t hesitate to call the police if I feel threatened or see a crime in progress.

      • Certainly, I still shop at the unSafeway, I still go to the library and I still walk the river trail. I’m just more aware and vigilant. I carry pepper spray, keep my cell phone handy for calls and photos, and use the child seat belt in grocery carts to tether my purse.

        Life in Redding is just a different place than it used to be, and we’re all adapting. It doesn’t mean I like it.

  10. Avatar Jedediah says:

    I realize that it’s what they need and demonstrates your strong feelings about the subject, but I could have done without the profanity in the final paragraph.

    • Avatar MK says:

      I find the situation of human beings living (and shitting) in the streets because we as a society are so concerned with low taxes and avoiding handouts vastly more profane than a word could ever be. Perspective, man.

      • Avatar Jedediah says:

        It’s a terrible situation.
        Doni did a great job personalizing the situation.
        We do a better job of “better them than me” instead of “there but for the grace of God go I” with the less fortunate.
        Dirty talk is just a turn off for me.

    • Avatar Larry Sparman says:

      Jedediah…you gotta be kidding. How many nits can you pick?

  11. Avatar Charles Dethero says:

    Works for me. Something better, more conducive needs to be done; we’re spending the money anyway, we need more gratifying results; more bang for our buck. I still like the idea of the farm/ranch (or as during the Great Depression, the CCC camps). I think that all people want to be worthwhile, have self worth, meaningful lives, just a matter of getting the ball rolling. For the most part, we just keep doing the same thing, sweeping the dust under the carpet. We need to do something else, see if it works, modify it if it doesn’t.

  12. Avatar Barbara Stone says:

    I agree WHOLEHEARTEDLY that we need to address the mentally ill. When my brother was alive (he died in 2001), I could have written a whole book on getting him diagnosed (he was possibly schizophrenic, definitely epileptic, possibly autistic, and definitely developmentally disabled); getting him shelter, services, and the correct medication.

    And he had family to advocate for him…I cannot imagine how people who do not have advocates get the services they need.

    I would much rather see a sales tax increase go to treating the mentally ill, the homeless, the disenfranchised than to increase the police force. Most of these people do not belong in jail; they need advocates to get them what they do need!

  13. Avatar Richard says:

    Barbara Stone,

    I, too, would be willing to pay more to address the needs of those who need mental health treatment, but please view the link below to the Sacramento Bee’s article on 2004’s Prop. 63, the $13 billion raised in the past decade, and the issues regarding oversight and accountability.

    http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article8327628.html

  14. Great column Doni. The regulations that govern mental health treatment are complex. The Prop 63 dollars were supposed to create new programs for the mentally ill. One of the programs had mental health staff going out into the community to attempt to bring those folks in for assessment and provide resources to improve their living conditions. (I used to work at the Breslauer Facility). It may be of benefit to ask Health and Human Services Agency of Shasta County what current programs are addressing these issues. How are Prop 63 dollars being spent? Is there a budget allocation to address the homeless mentally ill? Are there stats available giving information on the outreach program and the short and long term results of the clients in the program. The following link is to a brochure of the Mental Health Services Act that outlines the components and programs under those components.
    http://www.shastamhsa.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/MHSA-Brochure-2014.pdf

    Keep in mind that the mentally ill cannot be forced to accept services. Involuntary confinement must meet a criteria of “danger to self or others”. One comment frequently made by behavioral health professionals is that there is no crime or reason for confinement just because a person does not live according to the standards of most reasonable people. There is no crime in being obnoxious or of having poor hygiene.

    • Avatar Heidi E. says:

      That’s the thing though, mentally ill CAN be forced to accept services without them being a danger to self or others – in fact, the only way real long-term confinement can be made is if they are “gravely disabled” meaning they cannot provide for their food, clothing or shelter due to a mental illness or chronic alcoholism. (There is a very small provision for confinements in 6 month terms where they are a danger) It’s up to the county if they want to pursue these commitments though. If the county won’t pursue them, the mentally ill won’t be committed & they won’t be forced to accept treatment.

      • Isn’t it a danger to a person’s self to live outside in extreme weather without food, shelter and medical care?

        • True “gravely disabled” can be applied to the mentally ill. However, it has to be demonstrated that the person cannot provide for his/her basic needs. Most of the people we see on the streets are providing for their basic needs, albeit in a manner that does not meet the standards of most reasonable citizens. They are procuring food, some type of shelter and clothing.

          The cost of conservatorship and involuntary commitment is high. The person must appear before a judge and a case must be made for a judge to make the decision to take away a person’s rights. We, as a society, supported closure of many hospitals with the idea of day care and other outpatient services, would be in place to help the homeless mentally ill. That never happened. The following excerpts are from California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)..
          4002. “Gravely Disabled” Explained
          The term “gravely disabled” means that a person is presently unable to provide for his or her basic needs for food, clothing, or shelter because of [a mental disorder/impairment by chronic alcoholism]. [The term “gravely disabled” does not include mentally retarded persons by reason of being mentally retarded alone.]

          “Bizarre or eccentric behavior, even if it interferes with a person’s normal intercourse with society, does not rise to a level warranting conservatorship except where such behavior renders the individual helpless to fend for herself or destroys her ability to meet those basic needs for survival.” (Conservatorship of Smith, supra, 187 Cal.App.3d at p. 909.)

          “The public guardian must prove the proposed conservatee was ‘gravely disabled’ beyond a reasonable doubt. The stricter criminal standard is used because the threat to the conservatee’s individual liberty and personal reputation is no different than the burdens associated with criminal prosecutions.” (Conservatorship of Smith (1986) 187 Cal.App.3d 903, 909 [232 Cal.Rptr. 277] internal citations omitted.)
          There is no one answer to these issues just as there are multiple ways to help those that will take advantage of assistance.

          • (add on) For additional information you may want to check out the following information on patient’s rights. Also I do agree with the Utah response to the homeless.
            http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/opr/Information/GraveDisCrit.pdf

          • Avatar Heidi E. says:

            Yes, the costs for LPS conservatorships is high. 15 years ago, when our county (where I worked, not Shasta County) had a $30 million excess in our general fund, we put anyone who needed it on conservatorship. We were able to intervene and really make a positive difference in people’s lives. Now that the money has run out, we only have a fifth of the people compared to back then. Has everyone been magically healed? Of course not. The money just isn’t there anymore.

  15. Great article Doni. We have been reading with interest the articles you’ve been publishing in A News Cafe about the downtown homeless situation. For 17 years we had our photographic studio in the space now occupied by Carousel. For the first few years downtown Redding was a great place to conduct business. We loved being there. When we moved in there were only a handful of homeless people. They were, for the most part, polite and respectful and appreciative of help. In our early years the police department actually had an office in the Lorenz overlooking Library Park. They had police in and out of the building all day, they even had a few on bikes. After a couple of years they lost their funding and closed down that office. Things went downhill rapidly.
    We watched as the homeless multiplied. We watched daily drug deals, drunken parties and brawls out our studio windows. We soon had the Chief of Police and the City Manager on speed dial. We told them they had a problem that had to be dealt with. We pleaded for more police patrols. They seldom came.
    We got to a point where we couldn’t conduct business there anymore. Not only did we worry about our clients walking through the leering masses, we ourselves felt mentally beat up by the time we got in the front door. We loved our studio space, but it was time to move on. We moved ourselves and our studio, to Weaverville, my home town.
    I’m still in Redding all the time photographing. At times when it’s a beautiful spring morning in Redding I wonder why we left, then I drive downtown and know we made the right decision.
    As far as a solution, life was at it’s best when there was that little neighborhood police department in the Lorenz. Just having the police on foot in that area made all the difference. If that doesn’t work, consider Weaverville!

  16. Avatar Carson Blume says:

    You should travel more, a lot of places are dealing with the same issues as us. The solution is not just one thing, we must do all the things your discussed.

    http://reddingstrong.com

    https://www.facebook.com/reddingstrong

    • Avatar Bob says:

      The solution has been discovered, demonstrated, and publicized. Housing First has a success rate of 80-85%. It is the only approach that consistently takes the chronically homeless off the streets and allows them to create a stable lifestyle. One can only wonder if our Redding civic leaders don’t know how to read. Or perhaps they only read the Record Searchlight, which to my memory has never run a single story on the Housing First model’s success.

      The few people who have actually read of the tremendous success of this program in Utah like to say, “but this is not Utah; it will never work here.” — Well, the federal government has run trial Housing First programs in 11 different cities, and all have had similar results!

      It is time to stop the bitching about the problem and start bitching about the fact that our civic leaders will not embrace the obvious, proven solutions staring us in the face!

  17. Avatar Richard says:

    Toni Perkins writes: “There is no crime in being obnoxious or of having poor hygiene”, and that of course is true.

    However, stream pollution, public inebriation, illicit drug use and dealing, trespassing and trashing of private property, overnight camping on public and/or private property ARE illegal activities. One’s tolerance for such behavior appears to be in inverse proportion to one’s proximity to the problem.

  18. Avatar trek says:

    I spent 45+ years in Shasta County, Redding and close surrounding areas. Best thing I ever did was move away.
    Redding has lost the family atmosphere that was once so prevalent to all that looked for it. My biggest regret was not moving away soon enough. Some on here will think good riddance some may say sorry you moved away.
    All one has to do is follow the money trail left by the higher ranking city officials and you may start to sense why nothing has been done about the homeless population other than years of lip service by all. The city has thrown millions of dollars away on frivolous things that no city should be involved in. Stay out of the business of trying to be developers or partnering business owners with other tax paying peoples monies. Look at the salaries of top ranking officials and ask yourself are they really worth that kind of money in Redding? The easy answer is no, know their not but the upper class politicians and city officials will have you believe that no one will take a position if the pay isn’t the same as say, Chico, Benicia or even Sacramento. Redding, as a cities top priority should be public safety. You pay the police chief an incredible amount of money to do his job. Do you feel safe? When the police chief bails out pretty soon because he can make more money being retired than he can working like so many other city of Redding officials have you start to see you face a losing battle. Street are so far gone 50 million dollars won’t bring them up to even a good condition. City officials give developers a blessing by cutting their fees, a tactic to induce more building and put more people to work at the citizen expense. Fees are meant for little items such as water treatment and sewer treatment up keep, road maintenance ect., did the developers pay back any fees when they sold?
    All the while Stillwater Business Park sits while it’s roads will soon crack and deteriorate from non use, but at least the business park now have another bridge to nowhere behind locked gates in case of an emergency exit is needed. Pictures in the RS newspaper showed little single homes built on trailer frames with little wood decks and overhangs to help shade the structures. A little homeless city waiting to be built when property becomes available and city officials find the timing right to declare their ready to do something to improve the lives of the homeless. I really don’t believe a homeless person gives a rats behind about what color it is or how big their deck is and they shouldn’t. Want to save money drafting a design ask a farmer. There is enough rich, loamy, city bottom land next to the river to grow enough vegetables for every single homeless person in Redding to sustain them all year long.
    There are some good ideas floating around but the city is broke trying to keep up with every other small city for nothing more than lining the pockets of the retired city officials. if you don’t believe me then ask yourself how the present system is working out?

    • Avatar Breakfast Guy says:

      “There is enough rich, loamy, city bottom land next to the river to grow enough vegetables for every single homeless person in Redding to sustain them all year long.”
      Thank you Trek for your spot-on observations. As you say early on, “follow the money trail”. Best response on the thread, in my opinion.
      Like in the Abe Lincoln TV ad, “You ain’t lying”. I concur and applaud.

  19. Avatar Charles says:

    Big tax cuts for the corporations, illegal unconstitutional wars, big tax cuts for the corporations “job creators”to send the jobs to China; a Congress too busy fighting with each other and denying the people health care; from the time of Rome to today, we can spend the money on the people and building a strong society, or spend the money on war and making war and propaganda for war to support the military industrial complex. We are no longer a nation with the government in the people, by the people, and for the people. We are a nation of corporations that want profit and nothing else. This is why there are homeless people on the streets of every city every town in the United States of America. Any form of government that does not meet the needs of the people is a form of government the people do not need. Welcome to the great depression part two. homelessness is the first step to a government that does not meet the needs of its people.

  20. Avatar Barara N. says:

    Sorry..rose colored glasses off. Most of them just don’t give a sh*t. Makes me want to move too. Family makes it hard to leave this area that I really use to love. I agree that sometimes it is just too hot for me to care either. I’ve been ripped off four times at trail heads. I don’t bring anything of value anymore, but my gas has been siphoned and my dmv plates now gone. Tired of seeing so many young with nothing to do and all day to do it. Basically I just want them to get the hell out of town. I think I see more of that than the needy families and the mentally ill. Just getting sick of it.

  21. Avatar Richard says:

    Charles, having just returned from yet another cleanup in and around our neighborhood creek, I find your synopsis of the root causes of our downtown problem well-meaning but charmingly naïve. Those that gather together and then discard their cardboard, syringes, empty 40 oz. malt liquor bottles, stolen shopping carts, plastic, cigarette butts, broken glass, feces and used toilet paper, articles of clothing, and other items ad nauseum, into and around the creek for others to pick up, are not likely to have lost their job during the recent recession. Despite their evident ability to buy tobacco, alcohol, and often extensive and expensive tattoos, those who frequent our area cannot seem to use their funds for shelter, or even display sufficient motivation to transport their own refuse to the nearby trash receptacle. One wonders how the “tiny houses” would fare after occupation by some of these folks.

    After having spent 50 years in the workforce, I have committed a portion of my fixed monthly retirement income to assist those unhoused folks who are willing to help themselves better their lives and obtain transitional housing. But many of the individuals who are currently creating serious problems for our neighbors, some of whom are affluent and others below the poverty line, are now, and likely have been for many years— unemployable. I doubt that even a robust economy and a 0% unemployment rate would alter the behavior of this subset of the homeless population.

  22. Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    A homeless man I know who doesn’t smoke, drink or use drugs was just sited for illegally camping at a spot where he’s lived for 16 years. He moved on and left his camp site spotless. He’s not the kind of person this article addresses, although he may have a mental illness. He will not be able to pay his fine, and is challenged with finding another place to live in peace.
    I’m seeing so many healthy, able, good looking young people hanging out in the parks, at grocery stores, and hauling their backpacks around town with their dogs.
    A bright ex-student described his descent into homelessness. His story was fraught with bad decisions on his part, but the underlying problem was that he believed that his plight was the fault of other people starting with the fact that his dad kicked him out at the age of 20 because he refused to go to college or get a job but preferred to hang out playing video games and watching TV.
    What would it take to get that young woman you photographed into a job and an apartment? Are there jobs? Did rents come down when the economy took a dive? Would she accept the job or training for a better job?

    Thank you for an excellent article Doni. By the way, a friend mentioned that she almost hit a couple of bicycle riders zipping around on the streets at night during the power outage after that storm we had. That youthful vigor and energy needs to be harnessed!

  23. Avatar Anonymous Heckler says:

    They’ve called it the Unsafeway for as long as I’ve lived here, and I’ve lived here long enough to remember when a woman was murdered on the River Trail in the mid-’90s.

    The vagrancy and social decay need some serious medicine. Nostalgia’s not all that helpful.

    • Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

      My friend Myong Kim Harris was murdered that same year. If you remember, the Redding Police force had officers on bicycles patrolling the trail AND people were advised to have a walking/running partner when they traveled this trail. There were people camping along the river in the 90s, but they kept clean camps and most people didn’t even know they were there.

  24. Avatar Anonymous Heckler says:

    Oh, and for fear of coming across like a Marxist materialist, row 12 of this chart really says all you need to do about the well-being of our fair city.

    http://www.calmis.ca.gov/file/indhist/redd$haw.xls

  25. Avatar Honey Guyon says:

    I used to bank in the Westwood Center. there was a
    couple that was always there on the grass, with their
    dog. One day, they were holding a sign, “hungry , please
    help.” I went through Carl’s Jr. I bought 3 burgers,
    2 fries and 2 cokes. I parked, walked over to them,
    and handed each a burger. the dog loved it, wolfed it
    down. the woman said, “We don’t eat meat. even the
    fries are cooked in beef fat.” I gave the fries and
    burgers to the dog.

    I felt guilty trying to help. I keep hearing my Grandma
    saying, beggars can’t be choosers. How do you help
    people who do not really want to be helped?

    If I saw a homeless person picking up trash, pulling
    weeds in the park, washing shop windows, I’d gladly
    give them money. I offered the young couple $20 if
    they would pick up trash in the parking lot. The
    response? “It’s too hot Dude.” It’s too depressing.

  26. Avatar Gretchen says:

    The homeless humanitarian crisis is a symptom of underlying causes. Misplaced priorities, putting emphases on things that serve only a few rather than benefit the entire community, are a foundational cause of the loss of the family community. And the ‘cancer’ of negativity that has developed in Shasta County is bleeding, or running over, to Tehama County, one of several north state counties seeing the ‘dumbing down’ of what once was a place for families, jobs, communities, etc. There are a few who are trying but they haven’t much support.
    This is an observation from one who saw the family atmosphere in the north state in the late 1970’s, lived in the Bay Area for many years and returned to the north state ten years ago: The priorities in the north state are skewed. As a counselor I’d base it on two basic, but destructive, things: self and rebellion. There is no community (or little of it) because of the emphasis on self in local religion and political arenas. Traditional mores and ethos have been replaced by postmodern ideas that, again, promote self and consequently rebellion against the traditional mores and ethos that build community. The evidence of the skewed mores and ethos are greed and power.
    It’s been said, humorously, that there are two topics to avoid in conversation as they tend to strike nerves thus I’ve probably just struck both of them. Yet, in reality both arenas are heavily one-sided (hold to one perspective) in the north state and truly disallow what makes a community healthy: communication, conversation, and compromise for the betterment of the whole.
    The ‘frog in the kettle’ analogy is quite correct for the ‘cancer’ has been developing over the past several decades and its causes are not its symptoms, thus assigning blame to those suffering from it – who had little to do with causing it – is in error.
    If the north state is to be restored from the ‘cancer’ growing in it socially, psychologically, even spiritually, it must take an honest look at its priorities and start making changes quickly, putting the priority back on the people, community service, and shared traditional mores and ethos.

  27. Doni excellent article! In the beginning of your article, I was a bit concerned with your views. I had no clue if you were being a typical Conservative, with no forgiveness in your heart, or a the Liberal, with no forgiveness in your heart. I was holding mixed feelings about your article, at one point you made me want to say go ahead and move out of Redding if you dislike it so much. However, I had to step back, and realize, I have said the exact same things. Your ending to this article, are solutions that have been proposed. That gave me hope. Because it is true and those solutions are desperately needed. If Redding can get a 5 star hotel and get it built with cheap labor, we can have facilities to get our city on the right track. Redding maybe a town of problems, but it is still our town. and nobody can take it away from us. We are either the solution or the problem. It is our unique community that can make the choice and stand for that choice.

  28. Avatar Patrick says:

    Great article… I feel each one of these homeless, transients, druggies, whatever you choose has to be handled on a one-on-one basis. Some are criminals, some are not. Some are mentally ill, some are not. Most however, are homeless for a reason. I have worked with the homeless through Shasta County Health Dept. and found that most have issues that no amount of tax or grant money will fix, only band aid. There is such a fine line between “helping” and “enabling” that it has to be handled on case by case situation.

    When working with SCHD I found most every hand out’s, aka “freebies” .. were being misused, even down to the pre-paid phone cards I would give out, were being sold for drugs and alcohol. I would ask every one of them.. “where is your family”? Almost everyone of them responded, “I’ve already burned them, so they won’t offer me anymore help”. Loans they never re-paid, stealing family heirlooms and pawning for money to feed their addictions (whatever one, two or 3 they may have) and in general just ripping off close friends and family. Those are the kind, we simply cannot help. No matter how much we give them, it will never be enough. No matter how much resources we put out there, it won’t be enough to change them, unless THEY WANT TOO. Most, do NOT want to change. They have a certain thrill out of being homeless. I had a client explain that to me this way: “I’m like an animal in a jungle trying to prove I’m the top banana and nobody better mess with me”. I can out con the best of them. That makes me the top banana”. Something to prove maybe? I don’t know but I do know we only spend precious resources on LOCAL’s not people harboring in Redding for better weather and better freebies, which is what many told me they came from Oregon to Redding for.

    • Avatar EasternCounty says:

      Patrick, you toss cold water on the possibility of solving this dreadful problem, but I have to agree with everything you say. I have not worked with the homeless, but my niece and nephew were very active in a rescue mission in the Seattle area. They told of how ungrateful the recipients were for help that was given. Hand outs were expected. One incident sticks in my mind: blankets were given out to keep them warm on cold nights, but next morning, the blankets were simply left on the ground and abandoned — no thought of returning them or keeping them for future use. Years ago, we lived in San Francisco and received the Chronicle. Herb Caen was one of the columnists back then and, like Doni, had written an article about the homeless. A one-time homeless person responded with a well-written, eloquent article saying that he and most of his fellow homeless people were out there by choice. Why work when most of your needs were available free, and you could fritter the day and night away with no one telling you what to do. This particular man left the life of the ne’er-do-well, but he was certainly in the minority.

      If there were a way to separate the criminals and homeless-by-choice from those who are truly needy — those who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own and those with mental illnesses — and shoo them away, the problem wouldn’t be so monumental. But as it stands now, we’re stuck with avoiding unSafeway, South City Park, the trail alone, the library, the Cypress Bridge, and even walking our own neighborhoods. It’s no wonder the prevailing thinking is just get rid of all of them with a one-way ticket to somewhere else.

      • Avatar Jedediah says:

        If people adopted a “each one help one” program/mentality, we would be able to make some headway with our homeless/transient population. One solution won’t help everyone, but everyone can help find a solution for someone.
        We’re ripe for change, pretty much everyone agrees that a problem exists, now is the hard part of deciding how to get people motivated to do something about it. Aside from moving and then wondering what happened to the Redding they knew.

    • I hear you about not enabling. I agree. I also know that many of the street people receive SSI. If I were queen of the social welfare system, I’d not give this population money, but vouchers for food and housing.

      They need caseworkers and guidance.

      I have interviewed homeless people who live in illegal encampments who’ve told me that they get about $770 a month, but it’s not enough to rent a place, and even if it were, nobody would rent to them.

      So they live outside, and use the money for booze, drugs, cigarettes and sometimes a few nights in a motel, until the money runs out again. And then they start all over the next month.

      We need case-worker-staffed transitional housing for this population. I picture a dormitory-style scenario, that includes meals. And available work on the premises (like the Opportunity Center), for tokens to buy clothes and other things.

      • Avatar K. Beck says:

        Then they would sell the vouchers.

        My mom took in some people on welfare. She would buy the children clothes that would mysteriously disappear. After this happened a few times she figured out that the mother took the clothes back to the store and got money back on them. My mom had to cut the labels out of the clothes so the kids had clean mended clothes to wear for school.

        Back in the food stamp days people would sell their food stamps for cash. Illegal, sure, but who cares.

        It is a totally different mind set. One that most of us know nothing about.

        If you want to help, you must think differently.

  29. Randall R. Smith Randall R. Smith says:

    Certainly echo here the volitional choice of those interviewed living in the Himalayan blackberry of Redding during the last fifteen years. The most common reply to why are you here is “I am a free person and there are no rules in this place.” Since the new data on how early THC use permanently alters myelination of the frontal lobes and the all important central nervous system motivating center called the amygdula, I would like someone to research the amount and use of this substance during teen years among those who are wandering without ambition, without sense of self in society, without concern for the future. Could make an interesting research paper. If the connection is more than anecdotal, we have much more coming of what is seen now. The process of insulation or lack thereof is irreversible once the pathways are made in the sequence and timing which all teens must endure. The term “burned out pot head” arose before the recent published data on cause. Likewise, people acutely intoxicated sometimes fly out windows because there is no commanding judgment. Treating cancer pain in the terminally ill is one thing; recreational use among our youth is another which may have effects long into the night. Still, it is foolish to believe this plague will be lifted by inaction or the passage of time.

  30. Chuck Prudhomme Chuck Prudhomme says:

    Bethel Church has a huge presence in this city. Students from around the world are charged large sums of money to attend Bethel’s educational programs. Many of these students pursue mission work in foreign countries.What are they doing to help these local homeless people. Perhaps more focus should be on problems in our own country by Bethel and other religious organizations!

    • Avatar Canda says:

      The people being helped in other countries don’t have welfare to rely on, and they’re probably extremely grateful for any help. In addition to overseas missions, hundreds of thousands in our country are helped by local churches on a daily basis.

  31. Avatar Gerri Brousseau says:

    More of the same…and mental illness is a leading cause.I know first hand.It certainly takes us off the hook to say these people want to live like this.Having Shasta co mental health tell my son he needed to engage was utterly ridiculous….and I see no change in sight.Would require thinking outside the box.One of my friends loved one spent days in the ER… suffering a psychotic break…was released with sleeping pills to keep him from bothering people at night.5150ed and this was the best we could do?????

  32. Steve T. Steve T. says:

    I travel extensively in California. There are homeless people everywhere. However, it’s a rare community where the homeless and scofflaws appear to have taken over the town, as has happened in Redding over the past half-dozen years or so.

    I wish this was a testable hypothesis: Redding is distinctive because of its extensive greenbelts that typically (but not always) follow stream and river courses, particularly on the west side of I-5. These greenbelts are an attractive nuisance because they offer semi-secluded places to camp within relatively easy walking or bike-riding distance of the center of town. Word is out that Redding offers plenty of open-space camping with easy access to places to get food, booze, cigarettes, drugs, and other supplies.

    A sustained, unrelenting, long-term effort to keep our greenbelts free of illegal camps would either support or refute the hypothesis that it’s our urban open spaces that are the primary magnet that sets Redding apart.

    For a variety of reasons (including legal constraints on implementing a zero-tolerance find-and-roust policy), I don’t see that hypothesis being tested. We will continue to issue meaningless citations and tag camping sites, encouraging those rousted to move to the next open space down the road.

    I’m a supporter of increasing mental health and drug rehab services and transitional housing projects like Shasta Humanity Project…..but my eyes are wide open based on my own experiences. A large fraction of these people are willful bottom-feeders whose shared agenda is living a lifestyle of slacking. I spend a lot of time hiking off-trail with my dogs on the west side of town, and the total disregard that these people have for our shared open spaces is vividly and widely evident. For every neat little campsite you encounter there are half-a-dozen filthy, disgusting, and often spooky/scary encampments. (I grew up playing with other kids in and alongside urban creeks like Jenny Creek, and so did my kids. Would I let my grandchildren wander along Jenny Creek today? Not only no, but HELL no.)

    If there’s nothing to be done about the illegal camps, Redding is lost.

  33. Avatar Curtis Chipley says:

    Thought provoking article Doni. I have lived in the Redding area my entire life, first baby born in Redding in 1957. I have worked with the mentally ill, and developmentally disabled for most of my adult life. I have seen the horrific short sighted “solutions” for our homeless population. While I agree that we need to have a better solution and a hospital that caters to just the mentally ill sounds wonderful. The reality? You cannot force the mentally ill into a hospital if they do not want to be there, and most would not agree to go. Unless our judicial system will change and they can mandate that the person go into treatment, it will not work. The real crux of the situation is that when Regan was in office he closed all of the facility’s, known as developmental facilities in the state and released all of the mentally ill people into the streets, thus starting the downward spiral that we find ourselves in. As an Administrator of community based facilities, I would be invited to go down to the developmental centers to “interview” prospective persons to come live in the community. I saw people who were not able to function in the confines of the system that they were in, locked SAFELY away from the society that they could not function in. Yet all of those people were released into our community without support and expected to live and thrive. Yes it costs money to run mental health facilities, but it also costs money to do what we are doing now with these people. They are mentally ill, they have issues, but they are PEOPLE who for what ever reason need our help, and we as a society need to do something to help them. I have at times stood on the high soap box of saying that their families need to take care of them, yet I also know that for most families of mentally ill people they have tried to help, they have offered them places to live, they have prayed, worried, cried, for them, and they are EXHAUSTED. So I write all of this to say that there is no easy answer, but the current situation is not working either. We must as a community come together with a SOLUTION, not pointing fingers at one another saying you should do this you should do that, but collectively we need to work out a solution. I am in total agreement that a mental health facility would be a great solution if we could make people use it. I love the Redding area it is my home, I grew up here, raised my two sons here, and truth be told plan on dying here. It is my home and I want the best for Redding. There is for me no place more beautiful than here in Redding. Doni thank you for writing a article that makes us all think outside the box for a very complex and at times maddening problem.

  34. Avatar CHARLES DETHERO says:

    A multi-faceted, complete complex spread across large open space so no one feels confined. The complex could include a mental health facility; a monitored drug dispensary (i.e. a pharmaceutical), similar to clean needle dispensaries, for giving addicts the drugs they crave (they’ll find illegal ways to get the drugs anyway, so why not just make them available legally for free under the supervision of a physician); housing of all sorts (including outside camping if they want to camp outside); farming and livestock to produce their own food, or at least a part of it; dining facilities; laundry facilities; technical training, etc; whatever the homeless need to encourage them off the streets, back into productive society. We are already spending money, money which could be better used. See what works, modify as needed. I believe in a hand-up approach, and this would be a hand-up approach.

  35. Randall R. Smith Randall R. Smith says:

    Just for information: Bethel students of whom there are now more than 1200 in Redding are required to bring $10,000 each for every year here. This is housing, food and tuition. In addition, each student gives to the community a day and a half each Thursday and Friday for the twenty weeks of school. They are the ones most responsible for clearing and cleaning the miles of riparian neglect this town has offered to those who want to camp there rather than making their lives productive.

    If everyone pointing fingers and offering solutions worked as hard and as often as Bethel students, this illegal camping business and the wreck of our public places would belong to somewhere else!

  36. Avatar Chris K says:

    This in not just a Redding problem.
    Recently I spent a few days down in Marin County, one of the “richest” counties in the nation.
    While there I saw plenty of street transients sitting on the corners with their cardboard signs or pushing their belongings down the street.

    I don’t know what the answers are, but I’m pretty sure that doing nothing will only make it worse.

  37. Avatar Rebekah says:

    Wow, this was very interesting article and an issue that weighs on my heart daily. I am a nurse at Mercy Redding and it is not unusual for at least one of my four patients to be homeless. This is a sad statistic! Like you mentioned mental illness is a core issue in many of these peoples’ lives. I have to admit, I have a hard time with mentally ill patients and had a difficult time relating to those patients during my mental health rotation in nursing school. This, however, does not mean that my heart does not break each time I encounter someone whose mind is distorted. It is hard to make progress with those types of patients, especially in Shasta County. My rotation consisted of experiences at Outpatient Shasta Community Mental Health, where they were short-staffed with a huge demand for service. Now since then, Restpadd has opened. Yet, still it is a bandaid to the large issue. It is hard to find funding for such a project- an acute care mental health facility where many people could be medically treated, rather than self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.
    The main point I am trying to make is something needs to change and that I am willing to be a part to make that change, but have no idea where to start. Anyone with me on that? Where do we start? When do we put our foot down and say enough is enough? When will we help these people? Giving them money, giving them clothes and giving them resources may help for awhile. Helping them find sanity and purpose, that will help for a lifetime.

  38. Avatar Chris K says:

    It seems a lot of people consider chronic substance abuse as a mental health issue, it is not.
    People with substance abuse problems make a conscious decision to use these substances, people with legitimate mental health issues have no such choice in the matter.

  39. Avatar Vicki says:

    Thank you Doni for the great article and genuine concern about mentally ill people in Shasta County. Our society treats animals with more respect than the mentally ill. It is an illness that results in all kinds of social, personal and financial problems. Here is a link to an article about the history of the decline in mental health care beginning in California and spreading across the nation.
    http://www.salon.com/2013/09/29/ronald_reagans_shameful_legacy_violence_the_homeless_mental_illness/

    The inability to get help for mentally ill people unless they want it or have proven they are a danger to themselves or others (after they have hurt someone already) is in my opinion a shame. Government should offer protection to the society, by both treating and housing mental patients and making our streets safer. I for one, want Laura’s Law adopted by Shasta County.

  40. Avatar Charles Robinson says:

    The problem with the mental health solution is there is no money in having a mental health facility and you know if there is no money in it, it’s not going to happen. It pays more to put mental patients in a hospital it costs a fortune but hardly a solution for any states mental problems. We all would like to see these kind of problems fixed for the right reasons but from someone that continues to watch the downfall of society I don’t think we will see solutions to these kinds of problems in the very near future.

  41. Avatar Kathryn Gessner says:

    Thank you for this story, Doni. Recently, I had a meal in another small, California town — Cottonwood. I noticed an absence of anxiety in my chest. I feel for all these people, and I worry about safety. For them and for me. I live downtown, and I see plenty of action passing my window in the morning. I’ve called about the folks living under bridges, in mud and their own filth. It’s crazy.

  42. Avatar Mary Darling says:

    I have a Grand Daughter that lives in the streets of Redding. She uses Meth, we have tried everything to get her help. I worked with addicts for years in Southern California and know the problem all to well. You can’t keep them in a program if they don’t want to be in a program. They are toxic to family and anyone around them. We love her with all our hearts but all she does is steal, threaten and scream this really takes it toll on family . At this point the legal system has failed her. She has never been arrested that we are aware of. But she left So California for Redding, we had no idea were she had gone. Then she called and said she was at the Mission in Redding and doing well. She spent about a year there then graduated to another program. We went up for the graduation and she was guarded from us by a counselor at all times while she was with us. I thought this was odd. Since my back ground was Behavioral Health Services. But at least we were able to meet with her after the ceremony for a nice dinner at the Cattlemans with her counselor with us. She now is back to calling her Mother at least 10 times a day and screaming all kinds of nasty things at her, tell her she is the reason she is on the streets and using drugs. This is so not true. She tells everyone horrible stories about her family that are so untrue. We too are at a loss.

  43. Avatar Canda says:

    Thank you, Doni, for this article. I love how your articles generate passionate discussion. Some very interesting and thought-provoking comments here.

  44. Avatar John Moore says:

    Your article sounds racist and phobic towards mentally ill and reflects your ignorance of homelessness.

  45. Avatar Richard says:

    John Moore: You are either a brilliant satirist, or borderline illiterate. If the former, I salute you. If the latter, please attempt to re-read Ms. Chamberlain’s article and then buttress your attack with factual data.

  46. Avatar Lisa Yee says:

    This problem does not just belong to Redding! I grew up in Redding and currently live in Southern California. I have been volunteering in homeless outreach for the past 10 years and I do so because my heart hurts for these people. It is easy to accuse them of being lazy, not having the desire to work, I know because I used to feel that way. But then I began to talk with some of them but mostly listen. Some just simply do not have the resources to get back and their feet and do need a hand up. There are some that are mentally ill and self medicate, not all are addicts by choice of recreational drug use. Abused women that could not get in to a safe house because they do not have children. I could tell countless stories of homeless people and not one story seems to be just like the other. It was in the listening that I began to have a desire to help them because some of the stories I heard were just too relate-able and it opened my eyes to the fact that it could be someone I know in their shoes, if not myself.

    Homelessness is a challenge in most cities. This is not new. But how to deal with this problem is not a simple solution. The only way to get rid of a “weed” is to completely remove the root, everything else will just trim it, until it grows back. That being said, each story is different, each root for each homeless person is different. It takes time and intentional effort to learn the root of a person’s homelessness. It takes people who are willing to be the change they want to see.

    In my experience I have seen cities try to make an effective difference and it seems to work for a time but is not long lasting. I saw the City of Ontario turn a homeless camp into a regulated and permitted camp. Which worked for a time and then the city did away with it because it was not equipping them to get back on their feet and out of homelessness it just seemed to attract more homeless people.

    I do know people who have overcome homelessness with hands up. But I see that as the exception and not the norm. In my humble opinion for what it is worth our local governments will not solve it, it is only a thorn in it’s side, they would like to sweep it under the carpet (I say that from the history I have witnessed). According to Chuck Prudhomme, it is a lack in the religious sector. Well I think Randall R. Smith gave a direct reply. I can also speak for my sister’s family who attends Little Country Church, that volunteers at the Mission to feed the homeless. I am certain there are other programs in Redding’s “religious” sector that I am unaware of as well. I can speak first hand for our Compassion Team from Cucamonga Christian Fellowship (CCF) which distributes food and clothing every Sunday our volunteers are there from 10:45 – 2:30. Which does not even account for the prep time of collecting and organizing food. CCF just recently helped a woman and her children get out of transitional housing and into an apartment. Nor does it account for the time volunteers spend on inventory and administrative tasks. So I do think that the “religious” sector does have intentional outreach. Could we do more, absolutely but it takes: more resources, more people, more funding, more time!

    But the common thread that I see is that we take the humanity out of the equation. As Doni mentioned, these people are someone’s daughter as I believe Mary mentioned and someone’s sister, brother, uncle, grandfather, a Veteran. Society sees them as an eyesore, something that should just go away. I see the posts on my Facebook feed from Redding. As a society when did we stop caring and being human, these are people we are talking about and not things.

    Be the change you want to see in Redding, let that catch fire, it might just change you from the inside out and turn your world upside down like you have never known before. Take the time to stop and listen, listen with your heart to their stories, everyone has one. Then you WILL see a change in the homeless population because you WILL know first hand.

  47. Avatar Virginia says:

    John Moore: I pity you.

    When people similar to you throw around the racist word as a comment, does show your ignorance.

    Then the fact you say Doni is ignorant about homelessness is just crazy! She has spent years writing about it trying to get something done to alleviate the problem.

  48. Avatar Kate says:

    If the answer is building a mental health facility in Redding, then the focus should be on recruiting MORE psychiatrists to the area. County mental health is severely understaffed with only one full time psychiatrist. For at least 5 years, there have been 4-5 open positions for psychiatrists, and only 1 person has applied. The pay is much less than what doctors at paid elsewhere, but that’s not the main problem. The hardest part about working as psychiatrist in Redding is that you are needed 24/7. With so few doctors to do the work, the need is great and the work hours are long. I just happen to know a psychiatrist who is willing to work for a comparatively low pay because of his love for Redding and for caring for the homeless, but doing the job alone is overwhelming. No wonder only 1 person has applied for the job! The answer is recruiting MANY psychiatrists to the area who can share the overwhelming workload of caring for the mentally ill. And for that they must have comparable pay, reasonable work hours, and a facility equipped to do the work.

  49. Avatar Kimba says:

    Hi Doni & Readers,

    Thank you for the article and space to continue the community dialogue. I’m linking a great article ~16 mos old with good info on what other states are doing and info from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It gives strength to your idea, Doni.

    It reports that “the traditional approach to providing mental health care — in which profoundly disabled people are expected to find their way to the services they need — provided little help.” These hospitals help stabilize patients, but they were “no more than a temporary respite, releasing patients into the community with no guidance about where to go next.”

    This article boasts the effectiveness of transferring a mentally ill patient to the psychiatric unit of a hospital with an innovative program called Assertive Community Treatment, or ACT. The program “provides the sort of intensive, round-the-clock help available in hospitals, except it’s done in communities where people live. ”

    The results of ACT are more effective due to its integrated approach of resources with “a variety of mental health professionals working together, including counselors, nurses, a psychiatrist and employment and housing specialists.”

    Check it out: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/12/22/solutions-mental-illness/18816843/

  50. Avatar Former Magnolia Street Neighborhood Resident says:

    Thank you, Doni, for your observations and photos. I threw in the towel and moved away from Redding after 14 years of home ownership and work. Why? Crime. As a crime victim over and over again, my dealings with the Redding Police Department were disappointing. Yes, the officers on the street were wonderful. But, what about investigations? When the City of Redding had street repair projects done in the Magnolia Neighborhood, all of a sudden, crime skyrocketed. Metal thefts were rampant. Even a metal business sign made from a car’s hood and hanging high on a wall was stolen on Shasta St. Anybody thinking the G word. Gangs? When most of the visible metal in a neighborhood is stolen in a weekend, more than one or two criminals must have been involved. My next door neighbor had two cars stolen. two nights in a row. No feedback from RPD, at all. When it took RPD two hours to respond to a burglary in progress next door, and only a mile from the police station, it was time for me to move. Solutions? (other than moving away?) Immediate consequences for Criminals. Healthcare for Mentally Ill. Coping skills for the Homeless. No tolerance for loitering petty thieves flitting around town. City of Redding, stop babysitting these criminals!

  51. Avatar Denice says:

    Although I was doubtful in the beginning, this program utilizing county, city and church resources had measurable, documented success. http://www.sacbee.com/community/yolo/article3882668.html

    • I read it. Very interesting. (I can think of a huge empty motel – the former Budgetel – on Park Marina that also has an empty restaurant, both of which would be perfect for this application.) Thanks for sharing, Denice. 🙂

  52. Avatar Bob says:

    Doni, When we look back at all that has been written about the homeless in our city, how many column inches have been about the problem and its symptoms compared to column inches about solutions, some some of which have proven to actually work?

    Perhaps all our local journalists are writing about the wrong thing!

    Social psychologists know that the public tends to think the important issues in life are those they hear about in the news media. Hence, our local population thinks the problem and its symptoms are important things to be concerned about. Focusing on the solution is not important because we hear so little about this aspect of the subject.