A Recovering Addict’s Perspective

Photo source: Safe Seattle Facebook page.

Note: Bob Blankenship shared a link to this article written by Tristan Heberlein originally published on April 7 in a  Special to Safe Seattle regarding a subject that’s a common problem here in the north state: homelessness and drug addiction. I reached out to Tristan and gained his persmission to reprint his article here on aNewsCafe.com. Join me in welcoming Tristan Heberlein to aNewsCafe.com. – Doni Chamberlain, publisher. 


There’s an unfortunate dynamic that has developed in the many recent, and often heated, conversations related to homelessness. There’s a generalization made around “homeless” people, as if they are one single group, with the same agendas, habits and lifestyles. We often discuss and debate what needs to change, either in policy, programs or how they’re treated — whether it’s expressing upset that “they” are messing up our city, or the opposite generalization that “they” just need some more help to get back on track. But the problem is that they are not one solid, single group.

It’s important to note that most of the frustration expressed around the homeless by many of us lifetime residents of Seattle is not about the general homeless population. Homelessness has always existed in Seattle, but the crisis that we are facing nowadays is not a crisis of homelessness, per se. It’s a crisis of drugs, addiction, and lack of law enforcement around existing drug laws and associated “quality of life” crimes. It’s a crisis stemming from the recent lackadaisical city leadership and a letting-go of healthy, self-respecting boundaries — which has led to a massive influx of people who are escaping cities and towns whose laws and enforcement are unwelcoming of people who prefer to live in a relative state of anarchy.

There is myth floating around by some that if we just have more money for more programs and services, the issues will be solved. But these ideas are often lacking because they fail to acknowledge the many programs that do exist, which — for the person truly striving to better themselves and get off the street — actually work. They also fail to acknowledge that so many people who stay on the street do so because they repeatedly reject, deny or avoid offerings of services, including shelter, drug treatment, ongoing drug and alcohol recovery programs, mental health treatment, job training and the like — all of which are offered and available free of charge, and have been for many years.

It also fails to acknowledge that the many other services offered attract people to the city whose primary goal is to take advantage of those services — who ultimately become dependent upon them — and further their systemized helplessness. It also paints those who rebel against the very basic laws of life and society as perpetual victims and removes any responsibility from their shoulders for their behavior. This becomes a frustrating inconvenience for the rest of the citizenry, but it is a death knell to most street-level addicts, whose only chance at recovery from addiction requires that they adopt an attitude of 100% responsibility for their lives.

The fact is, people who earnestly look for help changing their lives get it. There are many programs and millions of dollars spent in this city and county getting people shelter, apartments, food, clothing, dental care, detox, rehab, mental health treatment, and more. It’s not perfect, but the programs are there and those who truly avail themselves of them only stay homeless, or stay on drugs, for a short while. But those are not the homeless folks that so many in this city are at their wits’ end about. It’s the, “I don’t give a ____ about you or this city, or my own life” type of street addicts, who thrive on small-time crime to support their addictions, who will continue living their aggressive and reckless lifestyle — victimizing our city — until someone else makes it impossible for them to continue.

Ideas float around that we could solve the addiction crisis by offering more money for expanded detox and rehab services. While continued — and perhaps expanded — funding for detox and rehab will probably help to some extent, the fact is, detox and rehab are not where the pipeline to sobriety typically gets broken. Some addicts do leave such programs prematurely, but most addicts fall out of the recovery pipeline after that. They fall off the proverbial wagon when they return to their usual environments and don’t usher themselves into ongoing change of thinking and social group.

Addicts who succeed in long-term, lifelong recovery, are typically ones who continue to get help from the (100% free-of-charge) 12-step community (NA, AA, etc.), and to a lesser extent, churches and other recovery communities, and who continue to do the painful and difficult, but necessary work to improve themselves long after the expensive tax-payer funded detox and rehab programs are over.

I’ve been in recovery from active addiction for many years. I have more first, second and third-hand experience with addiction than I would wish upon anyone. I’ve been addicted to opiates, alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes. I’ve gotten a pretty good sense of the opportunities and constraints of available long-term recovery programs.

They are not perfect, but they are far more widespread and mainstream than at any time in human history. They have the power to help more people on earth recover from addiction than ever before. We know this because it’s happening at incredibly high rates. But since the anonymity and confidentiality aspects of these programs generally shun researchers coming in and tracking results — and shun public speaking from successfully recovering addicts — the programs aren’t as visible and noticeable to people who are not actively engaged in such recovery efforts.

Seattle alone has over 100 NA meetings per week, and over 100 AA meetings (which many addicts attend as well) per day. In addition, there are many other programs specific to various drugs, such as cocaine, meth, heroin, and even marijuana. Membership in the various programs number in the thousands in Seattle alone. Every day newcomers walk in, or are sent in via the legal system, and help is offered free of charge, for life. A great many of these newcomers were led into recovery from legal routes (arrests, plea deals requiring attendance at treatment programs and 12-step meetings, etc.), and interventions (such as by family, friends, employers, etc.). Those of us in recovery know the value of getting our asses thrown in jail when we are out-of-line with what is needed to live right — and to live well. We know the value of being confronted by our peers and family who want to set us straight and to stop robbing them of their time, energy and money. And we know the value of being threatened with the loss of a job if we don’t address our problem. It’s a crucial piece of the recovery process called accountability, and is a common catalyst for people to take the first steps in the right direction.

For folks addicted to drugs and living on the street, the only remaining accountabilities are laws and ordinances, which dictate the behavior expected of the citizenry. Under former Mayor Murray’s leadership, the City of Seattle began removing the precious and necessary accountability structures (legal consequences of possessing toxic, poisonous drugs, enforcement of drunken and disorderly conduct, enforcement of littering and camping laws, the 72-hour parking rules, and many other so-called quality-of-life crimes and violations) over the past several years. The results of this careless and lazy approach to law and order in the realm of drugs, alcoholism, and associated crime are so very painfully obvious that they make many of us lifelong citizens of Seattle cringe.

And for those of us recovering addicts, with many years of successful sobriety, it makes so many of us want to scream at the top of our lungs. Because for us, this is personal. When we have to watch our friends and loved ones fall off the proverbial wagon because of growing availability and temptations of their drug(s) of choice, it hurts. When they don’t come back into recovery because their personal anarchy goes unchecked, it hurts. We may never hear about them, and when we do, it usually has to do with their funeral.

Most people who are in recovery now appreciate the role of law and legal intervention in their personal journey into freedom from active addiction. Most of us knew of available resources, including detox programs, rehab, therapists, 12-step recovery meetings and other support groups, for years before we finally started our journey up out of the trash heap of life. We knew there was help out there, but we chose to “go our own route,” long after we realized that controlled substances and/or alcohol were kicking our asses and preventing us from being able to be who we truly wanted to be. What finally helped so many of us get clean and sober was being forced into a new way of living from the various external accountability mechanisms that our society has set up — and for many of us, legal consequences (arrests, jail time, plea deals, drug court, etc.) provided that accountability.

As for our city’s recent trends for the worst, the several-month-long survey of the homeless that Mayor Murray commissioned in 2016 — and finally published in March of 2017 — revealed a key trend that the city failed to bring to the attention to the general public. Murray’s primary message to the public, after the results were compiled, was that homelessness is on the rise in the city, and most of them were from here, and are on the streets because they simply “lost their jobs.”

The Stranger was happy to jump on Murray’s bandwagon, and further cherry-picked data that supported his agenda, when they wrote an article titled “New Survey Finds Most People Experiencing Homelessness in Seattle Were Already Here When They Became Homeless.”

But that narrative didn’t take into account the whole of the information revealed in the survey. One critical result Murray ignored was that that 45% of all homeless people in Seattle reported having lived here for 4 years or less (between 2013-2016). That is a huge influx, and way higher than the rate of increase in the general population of the city.

Also, according to the Seattle One Night Count, in 2013 there were 1,989 people living on the streets, unsheltered in Seattle. In 2016, there were 2,942, which represents a jump of 47%. Is it a coincidence that 45% of all of the homeless in Seattle reported having been here 4 years or less, and in the same time frame, the unsheltered homeless population rose by 47%? It is a curious correlation.

What is clear is that under Murray’s tenure, which began in 2014, there was a huge influx of homeless people, or people who soon after became homeless. The number of folks on the street, unsheltered, also increased dramatically, and almost by the exact same proportion. We also know from the survey report that the majority (67%) of these folks use drugs…assuming they all gave honest answers (fellow addicts know that it is a rare addict who tells the full truth about their drug use in surveys and investigations, so that number is probably higher). We also know from our own experience that the obvious blight and erosion of values that protect our society from decay is taking over (garbage and littering, used syringes, drunken/inebriated and disorderly conduct, tent fires, roadside fires, men pooping in full view of the freeway, drug use, drug dealing, inebriated men wandering across streets, others running across the freeway, and sometimes getting killed in the process, property crime, etc.).

All of those forms of urban decay have increased dramatically since 2013. There’s been lots of talk about property crime, and to bring in some perspective, in 2012 there were 32,292 reported property crimes, and by the end of 2017 that number had gone up to 37,995 — according to the Seattle Police’s online SeaStat report. That’s a jump of 5,703. Do you think people engaging in such behavior are simply “Seattle natives who simply lost their jobs” as The Stranger and Ed Murray would have you believe? Or are they people who’ve come to Seattle because they’re attracted to the reduction of law enforcement and prosecution of these “quality of life” misdemeanors (mis-demeaner, a.k.a. bad manners). Many police officers, social workers, and journalists know that this city is filled with law-breaking street folks who have come here from far away. But you don’t have to ask them, because it lies in your observations, experiences, and in your fatigue after watching sections of your city become over-populated by the anarchistic, drug-using street dwellers.

That doesn’t fly in most cities, but it’s commonplace and normal here, thanks to the recent lack of political will to enforce basic accountability measures to prevent and punish such behavior. This is a crisis that was exacerbated, if not created, by Mayor Murray’s poor sense of boundaries, when he directed Seattle Police to stop enforcing the various “quality-of-life” laws — particularly among the unsheltered homeless. And it’s a rare individual who is able or willing to vouch for Murray’s sense of proper judgement around boundaries.

In essence, Murray helped make this city the best city in the country to be an irresponsible and derelict addict. The recent and current city councils have supported such efforts. Then, not surprisingly, there was both a massive influx of homeless folks, along with a dramatic increase in urban blight. These problems are not stemming from the earnest, down-on-your luck homeless whom most of us are rooting for — but from the types who want to take advantage of our compassionate and weak leaders. They thrived in their anarchy at places such as The Jungle and Spokane Street encampments, and currently, the Licton Springs drug and alcohol abuse-friendly community that has been ruining the morale of nearby residents, businesses and school children. They’re having the run of the place and feeling emboldened and entitled as Seattle morphs into the greatest drug den in the world.

So what do we do to return the City to its former state? The primary strategy that needs to be re-employed if we are going to have any chance of addressing the squalor, filth, disgusting garbage piles, excrement runs, and associated crime of the delinquent/addict sector of the homeless population is this: In short, we need to make it more difficult to be actively engaged in anarchistic, criminal behavior, and make it easier to live in sobriety, cleanliness and respect for self and others. For example, it has to become difficult to get away with taking a dump on the embankment, in full view of I-5 traffic while high on heroin, and easier to be ushered into a shelter to use an actual bathroom, or to jail, drug and/or mental health treatment, or out of the city.

The city leadership needs to start treating heroin and other hardcore drugs like the devastating and vicious, soul-crushing toxic poisons they are, rather than another legitimate lifestyle choice.

The City needs to expect that a person follows the rules of safe society, rather than ignoring its own rules while upsetting the bulk of the population who refuses to lower our standards along with them.

And, finally, Seattle voters need to elect leaders with enough integrity to enforce those standards.

This should all be done with a firm compassion, knowing that the actively-using addict lives on the brink of total emotional collapse every day. Because while our leaders refuse to sentence the addict to jail or prison for their crimes, they are instead sentencing them to a slow and vicious suicide.

Only by regaining a firm approach to addiction and recovery will Seattle turn the corner and begin its journey back to its rightful place as a clean and thriving city. Only then will we be able to walk into a library without feeling intimidated by the congregation of drug users and dealers hanging out outside. And only then will the addicts whose deepest desire is a life worth living finally get their backs pressed up against the firm wall of accountability so they, too, can join the ranks of the many thousands of seasoned clean and sober addicts in Seattle.

Tristan was born and raised in Seattle, and has been clean and sober since 1999. He is a landscape designer, artist, musician, poet, business owner and humanitarian. A self-described “Highly Sensitive Person,” he lives in a quite corner of Seattle with his wife, two dogs and three chickens. He is currently working on his first novel.

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50 Responses

  1. Avatar conservative says:

    “Massive influx of people” in second paragraph is honest. The local Gannett newspaper used a bizarre definition of “local” to push tax hikes. Attended high school in Shasta county would be a more informative definition of “local”.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      I didn’t go to high school here, but I’ve lived here for more than 25 years and have invested most of my adult working career here, as has my wife. We raised three daughters here. I pay taxes on multiple properties.

      I’m not a local, but someone who moved here at 14 and three years later dropped out of a local high school to become a wandering bottom-feeder *is* a local if they decide to return?

      I reject your definition of “local” with extreme prejudice.

  2. Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

    One of the problems I have seen with the homeless housing, in all cities small and large, is the NIMBY attitude to recovery homes. Almost everyone is for rehab housing and even willing to pay higher taxes to fund it, but they want those rehab centers in someone else’s neighborhood.
    One myth that is pushed is that the homeless/addicts are locals when studies have shown that almost half of the homeless count came from outside the area.
    The other myth is that those who came to different cities did so because of all the free services being offered. If that were true then Cheyenne would be overrun with the homeless because I have never seen any town offer as many homeless programs as Cheyenne. The newcomers usually go to a new city because they have friends or relatives and hope to find employment, especially in a larger city. Once there, with all their money spent, they find they are no better off than where they were and sink into the homeless trap.
    Unemployment is way down and employers, especially in the low wage jobs, are hard pressed for help. Help wanted signs are everywhere in hospitality, homecare and other menial work. The question should be asked is why can’t these new arrivals get those jobs. For the answer you would have to ask the business owners. Why aren’t they hiring the people who are in the homeless group.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      I agree that one myth is that all the homeless are home-grown. An offsetting myth that’s at least equally untrue—probably far more untrue—is that they’re all immigrants, attracted to Redding because of our overwhelming generosity. Horse pucky.

      Of the various proposals to provide interim housing for the homeless, the one I find most ridiculous is the notion of creating a camp for the homeless at Stillwater Business Park. Hot, dry, far from Redding’s services and attractions….nobody is going to stay put at Stillwater. If the homeless are going to be provided with some kind of temporary housing, that NIMBY issue will need to be defeated. I think it can be, with proper siting.

      On a related note, I still believe that if Redding has any kind of attractive nuisance (again, that it’s our grand generosity as some posit is a joke), it’s our greenbelts, which are in part a function of our topography. It’s comparatively convenient to camp close to the community’s core, carefree. (How’s that for alliteration?)

      If I were appointed Redding’s Homelessness Czar, my first step would be to enact a zero-tolerance policy for camping in greenbelts and other open spaces, and I would enforce that rigorously.

      • Avatar Aleeta Stamn says:

        Not sure why we are trying to compare a city of nearly a million people to the small city of Redding, with its single beyond-capacity homeless shelter, extreme lack of services in general, and rabid NIMBYism. Study after study has determined that the high cost of housing commensurate with wages is the main culprit in California’s high rate of homelessness, which was exacerbated in Redding following the city’s widespread gentrification efforts and Bethel Church’s seizure of much of Reddding’s lower-cost housing.

        It is not true that nearly half of the homeless in the Shasta County are from out of the area. Former Redding Police Chief Rob Paoletti tried to make that case by conducting a survey in which he excluded all homeless people who were born and raised in Shasta County, and didn’t ask those surveyed who could claim that were “originally” from somewhere else how many years they’ve been residents of Shasta County. Local service providers who track that information have pointed out time and again that most of the people on local streets have local roots.

        It is also not true that providing more (better) services for the homeless doesn’t work. Numerous cities around the country have nearly eliminated their unsheltered homeless populations by providing supportive housing programs that don’t rely simply on heavily punitive religion, and that don’t require recipients to basically cure themselves of their mental illnesses, addictions, etc. before receiving any help in what are often humiliating, highly stressful living environments that are anything but conducive to recovery.

        • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

          “Housing first.” It seems to work.

          • Avatar Aleeta Stamn says:

            Yes it does. It also saves participating cities millions of dollars. People who are no longer homeless use emergency rooms and other emergency services much less often (if at all). This would also free up RPD to address more actual crime, as opposed to spending so much of their time hounding homeless people from one part of town to the other.

          • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The bottom two I think are what need to be addressed for starters. I have often wondered what a Tiny Home Community would do to help this issue? Sure it would be expensive but would it be any more expensive than what we are doing right now?


      • I stand corrected on my previous suggestion to utilize Stillwater Business Park as a place for homeless services. You’re right. Wrong place.

        My updated preference is the space someone (forgot who) suggested: the Breslauer Lane vincity off Highway 273, an area that also has open space for farming.

    • Avatar common sense where did it go says:

      My Guess would be the Majority of the Homeless (50+ %) could not pass a Drug test. That would be the reason many are not employed.

      • Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

        CS, that is a fact. Anyone who can pass a drug test will be hired immediately at any job. To help the homeless and addicts someone has to hire them. In Cheyenne some residents, our friends, went to the homeless shelter and hired day workers recommended by the manager. A lot safer than hiring off the Home Depot lot. And our friends said they worked out fine, some worked hard and some were so-so just like normal workers.

      • Avatar Aleeta Stamn says:

        That’s not true of the homeless as a whole, according to most local service providers. However, if you isolate the chronically homeless minority, substance addiction (as well as mental illness) would be at higher rates.

        The last official local homeless survey combined substance addiction, mental illness, and physical disabilities as a single category. That doesn’t give us an accurate figure – it just creates the impression that drug addiction among the homeless is much greater than it really is.

        • Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

          Aleeta, that may be true in Redding with it’s high unemployment compared to other areas with more employment available. Seattle, Cheyenne and the front range or Phoenix where the help wanted signs are everywhere. Here in Phoenix my oldest granddaughter, 17 and a high school junior, went to work at Subway. Her boyfriend, also a junior, went to work at Wendys. First job for both and drug free. I saw this in Cheyenne before I left as all the fast food workers were young people. I think Redding could be called an unique town that there is no comparison to.

          • Avatar Aleeta Stamn says:

            I’m getting nearly identical unemployment rates for Shasta County (Redding 4.2) and Maricopa County (Phoenix 4.0). A city of well over a million people would naturally have more jobs available, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to fewer unemployed people.

            Also, the greater problem for the homeless is that they are the last group employers would consider hiring, for all the reasons I mentioned in my response to “Tim” below.

  3. Avatar conservative says:

    As fentanyl replaces heroin, California should deal with the massive influx by building a million “housing first” units in the Bay area and Sacramento. Then when those fill up, build another million.

  4. Thanks for letting Doni run your story here, Tristan.

    I get this notion of a zero tolerance policy, but it’s the “we be glorious vs. dirtbag loser” division this creates that strikes me as unproductive. Someone has to deal with this problem. Squish these people out of one area and they’ll flood to another. It’s a scientific principle.

    But I don’t know what to do about it that won’t create a mutiny of protests. Do we criminalize them by shipping them off to remote camps and siphoning them off from society so our town clean and pretty?

    When my husband’s brother was living on the streets in Santa Barbara, he looked the part. Everyone’s story is different. For him he had enjoyed a great childhood and became an Eagle Scout, had a great career, got married, and had a dog he loved with all his heart. And he had an alcohol addiction that probably started in high school.

    On his way to rehab about six years ago, he collapsed on the street and ended up on life-support. We drove down there, said our goodbyes and watched him die. He was loved, and he knew he had options to help him push through his addiction. But it’s my guess that addiction overrides options and makes it really, really hard getting and sustaining help.

    Some find the strength and support to rebuild their lives, others are so downtrodden and turned inward and lost they don’t know how to reach out for help — and yet we place this burden on them, full of expectations, and point fingers when they “choose” to stay as they are.

  5. AJ AJ says:

    One thing that is made abundantly clear in this discussion: There is no one answer out there that will be agreed upon by everyone. I’m more inclined to listen to Tristan’s opinions as he holds the “privilege” of first hand knowledge.
    Welcome, Tristan. I found your article to be well worth reading.

    • A good friend of mine told me years ago that no one could do it for him. He had to literally take his recovery one day at a time, and the people who were helping him said they had to take their work one person at a time.

      You don’t want to lose the people in this process of cleaning house and beautifying our towns.

      The solution, if there is one, would have to include contributions from people with a myriad of backgrounds: healers, therapists, people just there as a friend, city planners, politicians, community activists, neighbors in discussion, local business owners, etc.

      There are different perspectives and objectives to consider, and anything actionable would require money. But I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I hardly know how to discuss this, but I do know I don’t want to criminalize homelessness, people who suffer from mental health problems, and other communities of people whose lifestyles inconvenience me.

      I think that’s what happens when we try to talk about solutions.

  6. Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

    I have documented on these pages in comments, and letters, how my wife and I helped the homeless in Cheyenne. We aided the VFW’s housing program by helping stock kitchens in homeless rehab housing. Many homeless in Southeast Wyoming and Northern Colorado have found housing through this program. The homeless in Cheyenne have access to food, housing(if they want it), clothes, free medical and other items.
    The one fact is that all these homeless programs are run by, or aided, by churches. Name one atheist homeless program. On these pages are several comments from some about forcing the homeless to live with religious overtures. Utah’s “Housing First” program, which has been mentioned by many homeless cities, was started with start up funding from the Mormon Church and still gets a lot of funding from the church.
    Nimbyism location is only part of the resistance to homeless/addiction problem. Nimbyism to the main providers of homeless programs, churches, also plays a part too.

    • Avatar Aleeta Stamn says:

      Many other cities have secular housing programs which local government often helps to fund. Some are aided by churches (among other organizations), and some are not. The most effective programs seem to be secular in nature, which rely on the latest in counseling techniques, educational standards, and research.

      Also, not all churches force religion on the beneficiaries of their help. Catholic organizations seem to do a fantastic job of providing supportive housing and other services without the forced religion component, and I haven’t heard that the Mormon Church makes listening to proselytizing or observing its religion a condition of its donations.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      “Name one atheist homeless program.”

      It’s probably true that most secular/atheist non-profits (Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, McConnell Foundation) focus more on root causes like substandard education and health care than the end effect of homelessness. But several of those non-profits also address homelessness in various ways.

      Others secular non-profits address homelessness directly: People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) and Humanists at Work. Locally, the Shasta Humanity Project does not appear to be faith-based (though people of faith may be involved). Name a local religious organization that is planning to provide interim (up to 2 years) transitional housing by providing 30 homes.

      According to the Urban Institute, faith-based non-profits run only a third of all programs addressing the homeless, including the majority of all food programs, but just one-quarter of all shelters and drop-in centers. Secular non-profits run almost half of all homeless assistance programs, administering the great majority of housing programs and almost 40 percent of all health programs.

      So no, secular organizations are not sitting on their hands when it comes to addressing homelessness.

  7. Avatar conservative says:

    The homeless need more healthcare than the average person. Anewscafe may want to interview the physician recruiters at either hospital. It is very difficult to recruit or retain physicians to care for an aging population.

    • Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

      In Arizona news. There is a nation wide nursing shortage. Why? Because all the nursing schools are beyond capacity and many qualified applicants, in some cases up to 70%, are turned away because of no room. Part of the problem is that nurses are paid so highly that many of the teachers have gone back to working.
      Part of the problem in Redding is no large hospital system like Kaiser, UC Health, or Banner.

  8. Avatar Tim says:

    I call BS on Redding’s supposed lack of affordable housing. There are 2 bedroom apartments on Craigslist right now for as low as $625 — 1/3 the monthly income of someone working full time at minimum wage. https://redding.craigslist.org/apa/d/2-bed-1-bath-apartment-yuba-13/6582657548.html

    If someone is homeless in Redding, it is either because they are unwilling/unable to flip burgers 40 hours a week or because they’d rather spend their money elsewhere.

    • Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

      Tim, as I pointed out Redding is unique. How many of those full time burger flipping jobs are there in Redding. Elsewhere there are permanent ads for fast food in reputable media ads all over. Most of those jobs start at $10 or higher. My 17 year old granddaughter, with no experience, was hired at Subway for $10.30 an hour. Unless affordable housing means free, Redding homeless are stuck without jobs.

    • Avatar Aleeta Stamn says:

      Tim- I just checked the Redding Craigslist. After eliminating the large percentage of listings that were in Red Bluff, I only found one other rental, a studio “cottage” (shack), for rent in that price range. The vast majority of Redding listings were in the $900.00 to $1,700.00 price range. In addition, few minimum wage jobs are full-time.

      Also, why do you imagine that employers would choose a homeless person (who has no ability to shower, shave, or maintain clean clothing, and who is typically suffering from extreme sleep deprivation and malnutrition) over a clean, housed young person without a care in the world?

    • Avatar Tim says:

      Bruce: dumb labor laws (including parts of Obamacare) penalize employers who hire full time employees with extra costs & burdens. As a result, minimum wage workers usually need 2 part time jobs to reach full time employment. But there are plenty of jobs these days and getting 2 jobs is not difficult (aside from the extra wasted time commuting).

      Aleeta: Try this link: https://redding.craigslist.org/search/apa?search_distance=5&postal=96002&max_price=700&availabilityMode=0&sale_date=all+dates
      There are dozens of Redding rentals under $700 – a handful of which are 2 bedrooms.

      As for showering, they can do so at the mission provided they abide by their rules. Employers are hurting for anyone who can reliably show up on time and put in an honest day’s work. The initial transition from homeless to working poor is the toughest — another major hurdle is saving up a security deposit. But there are transitional programs designed to help.

      • Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

        Tim, it doesn’t matter whether you are poor or well to do to afford to live in California anywhere, not just in Redding, one has to work two jobs or lots of overtime. It has always been this way. My wife and I did it and that is how we bought a house and secured retirement, not just SS and CALPERS, but other funds. The difference, now, is those extra jobs or overtime are not available in Redding, unless you have a different source than I do and it has nothing to do with state labor laws or restrictions, it is about the Redding economy.

        • Avatar Tim says:

          Redding typically offers few choices for employment but right now it is an employee’s market; there are 592 jobs listed within 15 miles of Redding: https://redding.craigslist.org/search/jjj?search_distance=15&postal=96002

          If you are willing/able to work, you can find as many jobs as you can handle…

          • Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

            Tim, half of those jobs can be eliminated because of the need for licenses. Half of what’s left are scam, put up money for a job, and the rest are suspicious at the least. Not one is for a reputable first time job with no experience.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            It certainly does help if the applicant has bothered to obtain some skills & certificates (e.g. typing or forklift certificate — I believe they available from the Shasta EDC & Shasta Builder’s Exchange). But here are just a few of the absolute entry level local jobs from that list:

            RV detailer
            Motel housekeeper
            warehouse worker
            Dealership porter
            Fast food cook
            warehouse worker
            Deli clerk
            house cleaner
            tire tech (training provided)
            assembly line worker
            product assembler
            lube tech (will train)
            lawn care worker
            lumberyard worker
            concrete coater (car required)
            pool tech (will train)

      • Avatar Aleeta Stamn says:

        Tim – Well, that was tricky. I don’t know how you were able to eliminate the vast majority of Redding rentals to come up with a link that lists only certain things, but did you notice that many of those are rooms for rent in someone else’s home (often a bad situation) and RV SPACE rentals? Do you really believe there are rentals available for $1, or 3-bedroom rentals for $400? Did you answer those ads to find out what the big catch is? You also may not be aware that ads with lettering slathered all over them about accepting bad credit, etc., are generally “rent to own” slums with major problems, and that require a down payment.

        Also, let’s be realistic. If you are a homeless person and can find two part-time jobs (unlikely – employers don’t typically hire that group), the hours would need to mesh perfectly, bus service would have to be available at all hours and to all places (it is not), as most homeless people have lost their vehicles in the process of becoming homeless, and after putting in an endless day of working and riding buses you would still have to look for a safe place to get a few hours sleep you wouldn’t be hounded out of.

        Nope. Housing has to come first. Nothing else is reasonably possible without it.

        • Avatar Tim says:

          You can filter Craigslist searches by # of rooms, rent amount, whether they accept pets (a huge hurdle for many), etc. Try this link for a list with even fewer spammy listings: https://redding.craigslist.org/search/apa?search_distance=5&postal=96002&max_price=700&max_bedrooms=2&min_bathrooms=1&availabilityMode=0&sale_date=all+dates There are a number of units in Redding under $700 — I personally own three in that price range (all of which meet HUD standards and accept section 8). At that price you won’t get granite countertops and stainless appliances, but you can find safe & secure housing…

          If you just need a room, you can cut that amount in half. A bed in a shared room? Even cheaper…

          Transitioning from homeless &unemployed to housed & employed is very difficult, but not impossible. Show up at labor ready at 530am – sober – and you’ve got a good chance of finding work for the day. A car certainly helps, but you can get across Redding by bike in 30 minutes. Shower at the mission or rent a motel for an hour if you need to. If you keep your head down and work hard, you will almost certainly network with others in similar situations and can find temporary housing together while finding more permanent work & saving for your own place.

          If you are very able bodied, you can often find seasonal work & housing with migrant farm workers.

          The problem with “housing first” type programs is by providing all of your needs, they often dull motivation. A large segment of this population is so crippled by inertia they won’t do anything until they absolutely have to. They’ll go through the motions of looking for work without really wanting to find anything.

          • Avatar Aleeta Stamn says:

            How many homeless people have you rented to so they can find and maintain a job? Employers rarely hire people with no address, and/or who look homeless.

            I’m actually familiar with the small number of $700.00 apartments, whichstill require an income of at least $2,100.00 a month. I’m not familiar with motels that rent rooms by the hour (are there any?), and the only “shared” rooms I’m aware of are in “sober living” houses, which charge $450.00 to $500.00 (nothing is included).

            Also, I believe that anyone who isn’t a slum lord not only demands income that is three times the rent, but each person in a room mate situation must meet that requirement in case one of them leaves. This is nowhere near as easy as you seem to think it is.

            Housing First has actually been quite successful in helping the homeless turn their lives around. They are finally in a safe and stable environment where services are offered, their health improves, and they are treated like human beings. It has had a very positive effect on many people.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            I don’t rent to people with no income — that’s putting the cart before the horse. I have rented to a few homeless kids in the past – mostly taking chances on aged-out foster kids who have a steady job and a good reference. Otherwise someone needs a good rental history, large deposit, or guarantor (like HUD).

            As far as roomates, officially they need to be on the lease. Unofficially, I don’t pay too close attention to how long guests stay as long as rent is being paid on time, the place is being kept up, and nobody is complaining about noise/parking. So if one of my tenants wants to let someone couch surf that he met working for a temp agency, I’d never know. And if money exchanges hands for that favor, I’d still never know.

            As for showers, yes most Mom & Pop motels are happy to charge $15 or so to let you shower real quick. You can also get a shower at most truck stops (including the one on Knighton Rd) and at many campgrounds. A lot of longer term working homeless find it is cheaper to just maintain a gym membership.

          • Avatar Aleeta Stamn says:

            You say those things as though they are even remotely believable. I don’t know what “mom and pop motels” are still I existence in Redding, but assuming any motel manager is crazy enough to allow homeless people to wander in and out of the rooms (and hope they leave), that $15.00 a day is $450.00 a month. That’s a huge chunk out of a minimum-wage job. I can’t imagine that a gym membership is all that cheap either.

            You’ve also got people who typically have no vehicle running all over town every day for various things, in a city that’s so spread out it covers 60 square miles.

            Finally, most landlords DO care how many people are living in their rentals, and in fact will go to great lengths to keep additional (unauthorized) people out.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            Lol the secret menu at In & Out would probably blow your mind.

            I bet a $20 donation to aNewsCafe that you’ll have success if you walk into the lobby of the Cascade motel tomorrow morning and say to the counter person “excuse me, I’ve been traveling all night and just want to freshen up. If I give you $15, can I use the shower in one of your rooms for 20 minutes? I don’t even need the room to be clean – just a fresh towel and bar of soap.”

            As for Mom & Pop motels, just drive down 273: Cascade, Capri, Market St Manor, Thunderbird, Stardust, Deluxe Inn, Travel Inn, Budget Inn, Economy Inn, etc. These are the same types of places you’d want to see about weekly or monthly rates as a last resort.

            Anyway, a long-term homeless person wouldn’t shower daily at a motel, but it works in a pinch for that job interview. A gym membership is what, $45? That’s about half of 1 day’s work. You might be surprised how many people with “good” jobs in San Francisco live in their cars & shower at the gym. I’ve even heard of “homeless” uber drivers living in their rental cars and using the showers at SFO. Now that’s a city with unaffordable housing…

            College towns are getting to be the same way. Did you know 1 in 10 CSU students experienced homelessness in the past year? ( https://calmatters.org/articles/homeless-college-students-california/ ) Humboldt & Chico are no exception… But just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you have to look like you’re living under a bridge – people make do every day until they get back on their feet.

            But “affordable housing” projects are a massive waste of taxpayer money in California, typically costing over $300,000 per apartment unit — enough to build a new house for each unit. Developers make out like bandits with taxpayers footing the bill.

            As for landlords: Many do, many don’t care about extra occupants. I’d guesstimate that half of Redding’s rental units are owned by out of towners. Some Bethel houses can get crazy, but as long as there are no more than 2 occupants per bedroom +1 occupant per common room, the landlord cannot discriminate based on family size. Sure, they need to be on the lease, but you can’t stop someone from changing their “family” and these days “family” means whatever tenants say. (you can only deny someone who fails your standard applicant background check — but even then you need to be careful because landlords are starting to get sued for running unnecessary “racist” background checks).

          • Avatar Aleeta Stamn says:

            Tim – You’ll note in the anewscafe article below that the city of Redding has been cracking down on motels of the type you describe (this is not the only one). In fact, a condition of staying open is that there will be “No renting of the rooms on an hourly or short-term basis”. They all got the message.


            The Cascade Motel (first on your list as a shower possibility) was the only “motel” that was given permission by the city to continue to operate basically as a monthly apartment complex. I’ve tried to place people there, and when last I heard it had a waiting list and very little turn-over.

            Out-of-town owners hire property management companies.

            Even the vast number of homes and apartments that serve as Bethel student housing (for which property owners get an average of $750.00 a month per 2-person ROOM – that’s almost $2,300.00 a month for a 3-bedroom rental housing just 6 people) appears to be reserved housing that is strictly limited to the people it is reserved by.

            The practice you describe of allowing unscreened people to just drift in and out of rentals is extremely rare. In most rentals additional people are either not allowed, or are required to prove that each individual has income at least three times the amount of the rent, and that they can meet other standard requirements as to rental history, work history, credit checks, etc. (often not a possibility for someone who may have been homeless for some period of time).

          • Avatar Tim says:

            There are a number of solo rooms for as low as $350/month: https://redding.craigslist.org/d/rooms-shares/search/roo Shared rooms (in generally nicer accommodations) start around $300/month.

            Bethel houses are unique in many ways (e.g. their desire to live “in community”) so they aren’t representative of the needs of a homeless person. But I do admire BSSM students’ thrift and willingness to sacrifice comfort to work towards what they believe is a greater goal. Great example of “where there is a will, there is a way.”

            As for the Redding Inn, that agreement you mentioned was specific to just that motel and was part of a last-ditch nuisance abatement plan to prevent police from being called out 3+ times a day. Upon seeing their favorite motel closed, those “problem guests” all turned their lives around and now are productive members of society. Or not…

          • Avatar Aleeta Stamn says:

            I doubt very much that most Bethel students could individually afford a house on the hill for $2,00o.00-plus a month. I don’t think it’s “sacrifice” so much as necessity.

            And I’m well aware of the “rent a room in someone else’s home through Craigslist” option. Legitimate people making those offers for additional income want recent references, proof of income and stability, even a background check, etc. Unfortunately, though, there are too many unscrupulous people who use those ads to find desperate people who they can exploit in some way, or who will overlook drug use and other criminal activity. Not worth being raped or going to jail.

  9. Avatar conservative says:

    The state of California should provide more section 8 vouchers to provide housing for the homeless. People can remodel houses and rent, knowing that they will be paid. It is so hard to evict a non-paying renter that people don’t want to make the investment.

    • Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

      With the rise in employment the rental owners are not taking HUD vouchers anymore. Again this might not be true in Redding. In Phoenix there is a two year waiting list for HUD vouchers because many rental owners don’t want to deal with them. If the housing isn’t available it doesn’t matter hou many vouchers are out there.

    • Avatar Tim says:

      They really need to revamp the program because as it stands, section 8 wastes a lot of program funds. For instance, you pay just 1/3 of your income towards rent, regardless of how much the actual rent is.

      So obviously you’re going to rent the nicest place you can without going over your $1,331/month “fair market value” limit (3 bedroom) which means you’ll pass on the bare bones $850 apartment for the $1,300 house.

      Thus HUD will house only 2 families for the cost of housing 3. Worse, if you leave HUD as a tenant it is extremely difficult to get back on it, so there is a massive disincentive to earn more income, which creates more dependency. That’s not a program I want to encourage to grow larger without reforms…

      • Avatar Aleeta Stamn says:

        I believe HUD has rules that dictate how many people can rent, based on the number of bedrooms. One or two people are not going to be allowed to rent a 3 bedroom.

        • Avatar Tim says:

          Hud does match units to the family size. Shasta County HUD stats from 2016:

          2,000 people on wait list
          900 households receiving vouchers
          $372 average tenant contribution
          $535 average HUD contribution
          $907 average rent.

          34% 1 bedroom or studio
          47% 2 bedroom
          19% 3+ bedrooms

          37% of households had someone with disability
          77% of households headed by a female
          95% were very low income

          Annual turnover is only 13%, with the average recipient having been on section 8 for nearly 7 years after waiting about 18 months on a wait list.

          • Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

            Tim, those numbers really show how bad Redding housing is compared to elsewhere. In an article in the Arizona Republic about affordable housing in Phoenix they pointed out that the HUD wait list was 5,000. Shasta County, with about 5% of the population of Phoenix has a 2,000 wait list.

  10. An apartment or rented room requires deposits, decent credit and references.

    And a job requires self-control and discipline, social skills and a clean appearance.

    Neither are easy to obtain.

  11. Avatar conservative says:

    Progressive cities should make it easier to rent out a room. According to a woman who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in Shasta county, it costs her $1,000 to $2,000 to evict a non-paying renter. It takes about 2 months. This woman invested $750,000 in her properties and now has to support herself as an IHSS worker. Other disincentives to property owners are that a tenant can burn down the property by operating a meth lab or honey oil lab. Tenants or their friends can commit arson as revenge or to hide evidence of stolen goods stored or sold from the property.

    • Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

      HOAs prevent a lot of bad renters by requiring all homes, including rentals, to keep their property upgraded to their standards. Rental owners have to do at least three walk through inspections to their rentals to make sure there are no meth labs or multiple tenants living in their rentals. In addition the HOAs have inspectors walk the area to look for violations and report them to police if they have too.
      Those rental owners who have to spend thousands evicting renters rented to the wrong renters, HUD for one. The owners thought they could rent through HUD and HUD would do all the hard work. That is why many rental owners refuse to rent to HUD or Section 8 now.