Homelessness Workshop Opens a Larger Dialogue

homeless man

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, in 2014 578,424 people were homeless in our country. Almost 136,000 of those were children under 18.

Some cities have taken on homelessness and are being successful. Over the past five years, Fresno has reduced homelessness by 50 percent. Over the past 10 years, Salt Lake City has seen homelessness drop significantly. It recently announced it had successfully ended chronic veteran homelessness as well. 

Redding Councilwoman Kristen Schreder is passionate about finding real solutions to homelessness.

kristen-schreder

Kristen Schreder

On Thur., July 16, about 60 participants attended a workshop Schreder hosted to brainstorm ideas that could provide answers and a clear path towards reducing our homeless population.

Attendees included direct service providers, non-profits, faith community, government, business and community members.

Schreder’s impetus for this was the Blueprint for Public Safety the City Council passed in January. Realizing the Blueprint barely touched on homelessness and believing more was needed, she hired two consulting firms: Home Base, a non-profit public interest law firm based in San Francisco, and Symetric Solutions Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in large-scale Human Service Agency project implementations The consultants have been conducting research, facilitated last week’s workshop and will prepare a final report with recommendations based on the data collected.

Schreder fundraised the $31,500 budget to pay the consultants fees and United Way’s fee for financial accounting and disbursement of funds to the consultants. To date, the contributions came from many organizations, including Shasta Regional Medical Center, Redding Rancheria, Bethel Church, Mercy Hospital and numerous individual donors.

The plan, says Schreder, is to pull together the information garnered from the workshop by late August/early September and produce an addendum to the Blueprint. These will be presented to the Redding City Council in the fall.

Facilitator Nikka Rapkin said preliminary information showed Redding has an existing dialogue on homelessness and a solid interest in finding solutions. She noted the existence of the Continum of Care office, a funding vehicle started in 1995 under HUD, whose purpose is to coordinate, facilitate and support management of the homeless.

Rapkin said people are already invested in homelessness programs and existing housing opportunities.

But Redding’s homeless face challenges: few community resources, no full-time staff, insufficient housing, gaps in services, few employment opportunities, public perception and that Redding is an urban center in the midst of a rural area.

Co-facilitator Ashley Hart McIntyre outlined possible funding resources, including Medi-Cal, Emergency Solutions grants, private foundation support and leveraging services such as CalWORKS.

She detailed Redding’s homeless numbers from the 2013 Point in Time Count (taken every two years). There were 850 homeless (500 in shelters, 350 not), a high number of homeless veterans, 34 permanent beds for the disabled, 192 beds in emergency shelters and approximately 400 in transitional housing.

“We need permanent effective housing solutions for stability,” she said.

The workshop featured five break-out segments: Leadership, Information / Data Gathering, Public Perception, Housing and Service Gaps and Building Resources. Participants engaged with three of these five topics, brainstorming and sharing ideas.

Among key misconceptions identified in the Public Perception break-out were:

• There are too many services, which attract the homeless to our area

•  We need a few more cops on the street

• Confusion as to what services are really available

The two largest elements identified that could help change these perceptions were public involvement and education.

A neighborhood watch group near the Good News Rescue Mission had a recent meeting with Jonathan Anderson, the Mission’s Executive Director, and Police Chief Paoletti, to discuss what could be done about the accumulating neighborhood trash. The meeting resulted in a weekly neighborhood clean-up by guests at the Mission and a better relationship between them.

There’s a need to put a face to the homeless. Participants suggested a positive public relations campaign, noting the impact of photographer Nigel Skeet’s Homeless Rock Stars.

At a Leadership breakout, participants agreed the City Council and Board of Supervisors need to get involved to drive an initiative to address homelessness problems and coordinate the agencies involved.

Lack of funding, vision and government buy-in were seen as big challenges to having effective leadership.

The Housing and Service Gaps leader outlined some sobering facts:

• 40-50 percent of homeless youth end up in jail.

• An inability to locate people meant many often don’t receive services they need.

All the breakouts identified education as vital: educating the homeless, the community and the media.

Community involvement, collaboration, partnership and relationships were essential.

“This program is important to our community,” said Schreder. “(We) needed to figure out how to best collect data, how to put in best practices for collaboration and to look outside our community to see what other people are doing,” she said.

“We don’t have a strategic plan for addressing homelessness in Redding,” she said. This workshop won’t be that plan, she said, but it is part of what will get us there.

Donations to the Redding Area Homelessness Coalition Project can be made with a check payable to The United Way of Northern California, Subject line: The Redding Area Homelessness Coalition Project. Mail checks to 2280 Benton Drive, Building B, Box 14, Redding, CA  96003.

For more information, telephone: 530-241-7521.

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A former long-term resident of Redding who loves its natural wonders, journalist and blogger Debra Atlas is reachable www.Eco-hub.com or debraatlas@gmail.com
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5 Responses

  1. Avatar Bob says:

    It is very rare for online commenters to be way ahead of the curve, but regarding Redding’s homelessness such is the case.  Some of us have been pointing to the successful strategies in Utah and Fresno for a very long time.  Others have pointed to the fact that Redding’s perception of the homeless is a twisted, convoluted collection of distorted opinions.  We have spoken out against Mr. Paoletti’s  groundless conclusions that Redding’s “many services” attract folks to Redding.  This workshop lends more credence to the online commenters than to our city’s leadership, which is very, very sad.

    Our City Council needs to recognize that when they follow the leadership of folks like Ed Rullman and Mr. Paoletti,  no solution to the homeless issues of the community will ever come to fruition.  Homelessness is a complicated issue that requires a better response than a sit-lie ordinance and a free bus ticket out of town.

  2. Avatar Elleoareigh says:

    At least Rullman and Paoletti are talking about it.  You didn’t see that from former Police Chiefs, except maybe Blankenship.   I think Kristen is doing a good job of working on solutions in a meaningful way. She found funding for the study privately and intends to bring the message back to the City Council.  I choose not to entertain a negative outlook on this progress or whine about how slow it is progressing.  It’s far more progress than we have seen for many years.

  3. Avatar K Beck says:

    I agree with Elleoareigh! I have written  replies to A News Cafe regarding the homeless problem in Redding. Now there is a person actually working on this problem. First the problem, in all it’s iterations, needs to be understood. Then a plan can be established.

    Kudos to Councilwoman Kristen Schreder! Now we all have a contact point. And maybe there is real work that can be done and the citizens of Redding who see the benefit in solving this problem will want to volunteer.

    This is the best thing I have heard in Redding regarding the homeless situation since I moved here 10.5 years ago.

     

  4. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Three words in this article describe the difference between Redding and all the other cities that are finding ways to help cure homelessness.  Lack of funding.  Other cities are working toward solving homelessness with some local government funding but the bulk of the funding comes from donations, churches, civic groups and social clubs.  It takes a combination of all.  In Cheyenne the free medical clinic by Comea Shelter has been tripled in size and it was done with mostly donations, like the $10,000 donation from VFW Post 11453, little government assistance.

    Until Redding can develop a revenue souce for the homeless care there will always be a homeless problem in Redding.  More jobs would help, but where are they going to come from?  Fifteen years ago many trades people moved to Redding for the booming housing sector, then the housing market collapsed and the work disappeared.  Those unemployed workers didn’t leave because, as an interview revealed, they stated where they came from was worse than Redding.  The timber industry drove the economy for years, than when that dried up it was the housing industry that furnished jobs.  Now that has dried up.  What next?  I have heard many say marijuana could improve the economy, but those are barely minimum wage jobs.

    Personally, I think a major hospital like Kaiser, should move to Redding.  A hospital that would furnish all aspects of healthcare to an edlerly retired sector who would bring their big retirement checks to Redding.  There are many sunny areas in Arizona and Florida that cater to that demograph of people.  Redding could attract those type of people easily if there was major medical presence there.  Redding has everything else, it just needs better medical healthcare.

  5. Avatar Are U Crazy? says:

    Really, City stick their nose in and stop duplication of services from Christian organizations ? Ask Jim Dahl how good this went over last time tried. A family of 4 or more NEEDS DUPLICATION of services…. Get a clue Schreder… Better yet, dress down and drag 4 kids into these services and see how much you receive.