Down and Out in South City Park

Photos by R.V. Scheide.

Whenever you hear Redding city officials say their latest proposal to fight transient crime doesn’t target the homeless population, rest assured, it targets the homeless population. Such is the case with the eight-foot-high wrought-iron fence soon to be erected around South City Park.

The city’s attention on the park, long known as a haven for alcoholics, drug addicts and other assorted drifters—including homeless people just down on their luck—increased a couple of months ago, after former Redding mayor Rick Bosetti was assaulted by a transient woman near Tiger Field, which sits adjacent to South City Park and the Redding Library.

Bosetti, a former professional baseball player, is general manager of the Colt 45s, Redding’s minor league baseball team, which plays its home games at Tiger Field. Obviously, the present conditions in the park aren’t exactly conducive to taking the family out to the ball game, and the community effort to “scour” the criminal riff-raff out and “reprogram” the park began in earnest.

The park’s drinking fountain has been shut off and the public restrooms are now cordoned off with a chain-link fence. At night, the sprinklers are turned on to drive illegal campers out of the park. The amount of personal belongings transients can carry into the park was limited to one trash bag full. The Redding Police Department has conducted several “quality of life sweeps” in the park in recent months.

Yet the transient population continues to swarm the park in the daytime. The reality is they’ve been chased out of pretty much every place else. South City Park is one of the few places they have left to go, a small island of shade to ward of Redding’s brutal summer heat. The nearby library has water and restrooms. If anything, transients, criminal or otherwise, are adaptive.

So the Redding City Council voted unanimously to fence them all out of the park, once again assuring the public the proposal doesn’t target the homeless.

Which of course is untrue.

George Koen, formerly homeless homeless advocate.

My Friend George

George Koen was irate. On June 1, the Redding Library began requiring photo ID to use its public computers. For him, the move was yet another indignity on the long list of indignities visited upon the local homeless community by public officials during the past three years.

Koen is the self-styled homeless advocate who A News Cafe publisher Doni Chamberlain interviewed last March. At the time, Koen was homeless himself, but he’s since refurbished an old motor home and acquired a temporary house-sitting gig. I’d been Facebook friends with the erudite South African native for roughly a year without realizing his predicament.

Last Friday morning, Koen reached out to me on Facebook Messenger.

“RV, can you not write an article on the treatment of the homeless? Now, unless you have a pic ID, you cannot use the computers at the library. Fuck man, it has to stop!!!!!!”

I was intrigued. I live 30 miles east of Redding and I visit the Redding Library about once a month, to check out the latest bestsellers. We don’t have a visible homeless problem out here in Whitmore, so I use my monthly visits to the library to gauge both the size and mood of the homeless community.

It’s no secret homeless people frequent public libraries; a phenomenon that exists across the United States, and Redding is no exception. In many cities, it’s one of the few public spaces the homeless remain welcome in. For them, the public library computer is often their only connection to the real world, to friends and relatives, to prospective employers.

Until recently, the Redding Library had generously allowed anyone to use the computers without an ID or a library card for one hour. Now it requires a photo ID, a document some homeless people don’t possess.

What’s up with that? I wondered. I told Koen, who was preparing to serve lunch to the denizens of South City Park, that I’d be right down.

The crowd gathered for lunch at South City Park.

Feeding Time

When I arrived at South City Park, Koen had a table set up in front of his RV and was ladling huge dollops of hearty-looking vegetable beef and barley stew from a 5-gallon stock pot into the bowls of the waiting transients. Sliced bread and chilled bottled water was also available. Koen was standing in for his friend, Ginny Adorador, who normally does the Friday feeding but had to attend a wedding.

There were about 75 people in the park, mostly Caucasian, divided into a half-dozen separate groups, sitting upright or sprawled out on the well-worn grass beneath the trees. Bicycles, wheel chairs, backpacks and trash-bags full of belongings circled around them like wagons in an old movie Western.

There’s no sugar-coating it: There’s some rough customers hanging out in South City Park. Young men in their 20s and 30s with the strung-out gaunt appearance that accompanies methamphetamine and heroin abuse. Mangy, wired lions waiting to prey upon the non-criminal members of the transient community, the old, the disabled and the mentally ill.

Are they the minority or the majority of the people in the park, these rough customers? On this day, it was hard to tell, perhaps because every one on hand was well-fed and relatively sedate. At any rate, Koen is most concerned with the people in the park who are not criminals. In his view, they’re unfairly being lumped in with the criminal element. He’s even come up for an acronym for it: AGE.

That stands for assumptions, generalizations and exaggerations, the process by which Koen believes homeless people are being demonized.

“We are unsightly of course,” he explained. “We are all drug addicts and criminals. I appreciate the nastiness that does happen down here. It never used to be so prevalent. This really started when the younger tweakers and heroin users started moving in around the beginning of the year. Before that there was simply pot and alcohol. I, therefore, do understand where the city of Redding is coming from. The majority of us steer clear of trouble or confrontation with RPD, and they know that.”

To Koen, the library’s photo ID requirement is just another brick in the wall that excludes the homeless.

“When one considers the history of the last three or so years, and remains aware of the fact that we are all capable of paranoia, it really is blatant that this is simply another means to isolate all homeless on the basis of bad behavior by a few,” he said.

Dorothy Bluetear has been homeless in Redding for the past four years.

Introducing Some Real Homeless People

To demonstrate his point, Koen arranged interviews for me with several homeless individuals in the park he felt comfortable enough to vouch for. I appreciated his efforts. There’s a large component of mentally ill individuals in the homeless population that makes obtaining reliable information difficult, and Koen knows this community much better than I.

Dorothy Bluetear, 55, said she was born in Los Angeles and eventually moved to Oregon, where she was married for 17 years and raised five kids. She got divorced four years ago and moved to Redding, where her sister and niece reside.

“They’re not wealthy, but they help me out from time to time,” she said.

Like a lot of homeless people, Bluetear’s descent into homelessness began by sleeping in her car. She said she receives $200 per month in alimony and also receives food stamps. In March, she had to give up the car because she could no longer afford to operate it. She’s been on foot since then.

On this 100-degree day, she had a spot staked out with an umbrella and a tarp next to a chain-link fence on the park’s edge.

“I have food stamps. I have all my stuff here and two cats,” she said.

No felines seemed to be about. I asked her why her marriage had fallen apart. She shrugged and said it had become a mentally abusive relationship. Where were her five children?

“They’re all grown up, living in Southern California,” was all she offered. She assigned no blame, not even to herself. She seemed reconciled with past events and more focused on where she was going to lay her head that night.

“The biggest problem in Redding is you don’t have a place where you can stay, where you can sleep, that you won’t be bothered by the police,” she said.

Bluetear claimed she’s been ticketed by RPD five times in the past year during RPD’s “quality of life” sweeps. “What about my quality of life?” she asked. “They lower my quality so they can improve their quality.”

I later searched the Shasta County Superior Court’s online criminal case database and found only one citation, for a Dorothy Lee Bluetear, during the past two years. The charge was a minor misdemeanor that took place June 1 that may have involved her automobile. The case seems to be stalled. Oddly, no plaintiff is named in the record.

Perhaps that’s because Bluetear is who she appears to be: Someone’s grandmother who just happens to be homeless. She’s grateful employees at nearby coffee shops will give homeless people water, even hot water for soup, if they bring their own cup. She has the grimy patina all street people eventually acquire, but exhibits no overt signs of alcoholism, drug addiction or mental illness.

“People in houses do crimes and drugs,” she said. “Just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you’re a criminal.”

She’s disappointed with the city council’s decision to fence the park off.

“It’s a semi-safe place,” she said. “I’m not going to say there aren’t some bad people out here. But I’ve seen more needles outside the park than inside the park.”

Mike Pyle was diagnosed with cancer in 2004 and has been homeless ever since.

“The Toughest Town I’ve Ever Been In”

Mike Pyle, 59, has had enough of Redding. He’s moving on.

“I came down here from Roseburg seven months ago for back surgery,” he said, sitting inside Koen’s sweltering motor home. “It was the worst mistake I’ve ever made.”

Pyle said he was diagnosed with renal carcinoma in 2004. He lost a kidney and his job and has been homeless ever since. The cancer recently returned and he was scheduled to begin treatment at Mercy Medical Center. Nevertheless, he’s decided to pull up stakes.

“I’ve been homeless since 2004 when I came down with cancer,” he said. “I’ve been in every city up and down the West Coast, and this is the toughest town I’ve ever been in.”

“Ninety percent of the people aren’t down here, so they think we’re all thugs, criminals and thieves,” he continued. “I can’t really blame them; they go off what they read in the paper. There’s not a lot of love for people in my situation in this town. It’s a stigma. I go out of my way to keep my homelessness hidden from my doctors.”

Pyle’s monthly disability check isn’t enough to pay the rent, so he’s been forced to seek out roommates during his stay in Redding. It hasn’t worked out well.

“I’ve rented rooms in three houses, and all three times it blew up in my face,” he said. “I’ve had trouble finding stable roommates. It’s easier to be camping outside.”

Not that camping outside is necessarily safer. Pyle said he’s been assaulted several times by the gangs of tweakers and heroin addicts that victimize the older, more vulnerable members of the homeless population. He can still walk, but he now uses a wheel chair to get around, loading it up with his personal belongings and pushing it blocks across town to doctor’s appointments.

On Aug. 2, he’s heading north to Bellingham, Washington, where he has a lead on a housing opportunity.

“Things are tough all over,” he said. “I’m lucky I get a check and can afford to move off. It’s all good. I’m 59, I’ve had a good life. I’ve lived a lot longer than a lot of my friends. My eyes are still open. I’m still kicking it.”

Mekaela Knodt has been homeless in Redding since 2013.

Struggling With Mental Illness

Mekaela Knodt, 42, moved to Redding from Manteca 13 years ago. She was making ends meet until the Great Recession came along.

“Right after the economy crashed, Redding was one of the hardest hit,” she said. “I lost my apartment, I lost my job, I ended up homeless.”

Knodt described her situation as “unique,” and it is. She said she’s been diagnosed with complex PTSD and has battled mental health issues most of her adult life. She said her troubles began when she ran away from home at age 12.

“I was put in a psych ward for kids,” she said. “A male nurse drugged and raped me.”

I’ve been unable to confirm this sexual abuse actually happened, but there’s no question Knodt believes it did.  She’s developed a distrust of mental health professionals and social service agencies that precludes her from getting the help she needs.

It was hard to fathom at first, but this intelligent, well-spoken woman in a clean summer dress readily admitted she’s known locally as a “trouble-maker.” She claimed she blew the whistle on one clinic for releasing her medical information to a known sex offender. She alleged her father and step-mother suggest she should consider physician-assisted suicide. Because she failed to pay a disputed medical bill, she lost her HUD voucher and a chance for permanent housing.

“You can’t use anything that’s in the system,” she said.

Like Dorothy Bluetear, Knodt lived out of her car for as long as she could when she first became homeless.

“My father got me a vehicle, but I really couldn’t afford it,” she said. “The reason for that is I just can’t get a good enough job.”

She said she lost her last job because she couldn’t raise enough gas money to get to work. She was forced to give up the car four years ago and has been on the streets every since.

On May 31, Knodt was dozing during the daytime in Caldwell Park when an RPD “quality of life” sweep came through. Knodt said she impulsively snatched the ticket book out of a police officer’s hand so she could “read the ticket better.” She was charged with a criminal misdemeanor and spent the night in jail, which I later confirmed in the Shasta County Superior Court criminal case database.

She said she was looking forward to her arraignment in court on Aug. 6 so she can finally tell her story to someone who will listen.

Because she doesn’t have a cell phone, Knodt regularly uses the library computers to connect to the internet and noticed right away after the rules requiring a photo ID were implemented in June.

“I have to use the library computer, email is the only way I can communicate with friends and employers because I don’t have a phone,” she said. “I have a driver’s license, but I asked for the library’s copy of the new rules. They’re changing our policy, I have a right to know!”

Mike Pyle, soon to be on his way out of town, didn’t have much to say about the library’s new rule. Dorothy Bluetear uses her “Obama phone” to surf the net and doesn’t use the library’s computers, but she harrumphed all the same when I asked her about it.

“The next thing you know, that I can imagine, is if you want to sit and read a book, you’re going to have to have ID,” she said.

South City Park sits adjacent to the Redding Library and Tiger Field.

The Housed And The Homeless

That won’t be the case, according to Tom Ramont, outreach and marketing coordinator for Shasta Public Libraries. He insisted the new rule requiring photo ID to use the library’s computers doesn’t target the homeless community.

“They’re still allowed to use the library,” he said. “They can come here to cool off in the summer and they can come here to keep warm in the winter. If they’re following the rules, homeless or housed, they’re welcome at the library.”

Ramont said the new rule was implemented because some people among the library’s 2 million annual visitors do break the library’s policies. They yell and curse at library employees. They walk away with books without checking them out. Often, when the library attempts to ban them for their behavior, they give a false name, making the ban difficult to enforce.

“We had talked to community stakeholders, and this is just another way of enforcing our policies,” he said.

Although Ramont cited no specific criminal or behavioral problems related to use of the library’s computers, he said requiring a photo ID for their usage enables the library to get the actual names of people, should they wind up causing some sort of future disturbance.

“We’re not the first library to do this,” he said. “Libraries across the country are doing it.”

Which is true. But it still sounds an awful lot like the library is targeting the homeless community, who are more likely to not have photo ID compared to the general population.

For George Koen, the library’s new rule further validates his AGE theory. The library is assuming, generalizing and exaggerating the behavior of the criminal transient community at the expense of people whose only crime is not being able to make it on their own.

“When we as a culture determine it is acceptable to hate a certain group in our society, we are doomed to repeat our darkest moments in history,” he said.

That’s the corner that Koen fears we’ve turned.

“First we lose toilets, then access to water, now we have the fence coming in,” he said. When he found out the library was requiring photo ID, he “decided if my homeless buds cannot use the computers, in solidarity, I will not use them.”

Most of the homeless people I interviewed at South City Park were more concerned with the coming fence than the library’s new rule on computer usage. They understand they’re being ejected from the park so normal people -- the housed community -- can enjoy a night at the baseball game. Some of them are bitter about it. I asked Koen where they’ll go after the fence goes up.

“That has not been decided,” he said. “Some speak of the river, Sundial, Diestelhorst. Some speak of City Hall, front and back. Honestly, these things tend to sort themselves out. I suspect and am hoping that the wheat will be sorted from the chaff. Also, think shade.”

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R.V. Scheide
R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas.
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64 Responses

  1. bruce vojtecky says:

    I have often posted, and written LTTE, about what Elsewhere is doing to address homelessness. Last night on the news was a story about Circle The City, a national program that helps homeless individuals. In Phoenix, CTC just opened a new building expected to serve the needs of 7,000 homeless. And it is not just big cities. In Cheyenne a year ago a free clinic was expanded next to Comea House homeless shelter. If it is so bad in Redding why are the homeless staying there?
    Also, about the library computer access, does the Mission offer computer access?
    One must, all these places I post about Elsewhere, is the people using them have to follow their rules. I think, from personal efforts to help the homeless and from reading articles like this, many are homeless because they don’t want to follow the rules.

    • Linda Cadd says:

      Yes Bruce, the Mission does offer computer access to the ENTIRE general public….not just the homeless. And I would be more than happy to facilitate a tour of the Mission for you and R.V. Scheide Jr. at your convenience. There are a number of misconceptions about the Mission that could be addressed.

      • Linda, I will take you up on your offer some time. I’ve got no problem with the Mission–other than that there’s only one of them!

      • bruce vojtecky says:

        Linda, as I live in Phoenix I won’t be taking you up on your offer. I do remember when I lived in Anderson and frequented the bars by the Mission, and South City Park as well, the homeless were not a problem. When I worked at Enterprise I would set up the ball field, where the Colt 45’s now play, for EHS games. I did not encounter any of the problems that seem to have appeared lately. That was over a decade ago and the homeless/vagrant/criminal problem seems to have begun about the time I left Shasta County, 2006. I dare say the problem in Redding is economical and anything else is just putting band aids on an open wound. As I have stated on here, in comments and LTTE of which I have taken heat over, while Elsewhere is working to address these problems Redding seems to want to play the blame game and nothing is accomplished.

        • Frequented the bars by the Mission? I”m really starting to like you Cheyenne.

          • bruce vojtecky says:

            The Tropics, The Porthole, The Saloon.

          • Beverly Stafford says:

            This is for Bruce, but we’re run out of the Reply option. I had heard that The Tropics was a hang-out for school employees. It has been purchased by a man who is doing a huge remodel. The outside has been sandblasted, and there are construction crew vehicles there each time we drive by. I’ve never been to the Tropics – had no desire to do so; however, if it becomes as nice as the new owner describes, plus having Roquito’s next door for food, we may just see what a neighborhood bar is like.

          • bruce vojtecky says:

            Beverly, When I went to the Tropics it, as well as the Porthole, were hangouts for softball players due to the amount of softball, some on the national level, played at South City Park.

  2. Dorothy Bluetear came to Redding because she lived in the same region (southern Oregon, i.e. SOJ) and she has relatives here. Mike Pyle came to Redding because he also lived in the region and came here specifically for medical treatment. Mekaela Knodt has lived in Redding 13 years. Redding is a hub city in this region with access to government social services. I don’t think the homeless choose to come here, they crash land here, just like they’re crash landing in every city in this state, and Arizona too, sounds like. The rent’s too damn high, even in Redding.

    From what I’m told, you can’t stay at the Mission in the daytime. I don’t know what sort of public computers they might have. There were several people I talked to at the park who stay there at night, including a man who had three preschool age children with him and didn’t want to be interviewed or photographed. I have talked to numerous mentally ill homeless people who say they can’t handle the Mission’s rules. That shouldn’t be too surprising.

    Obviously, Redding is lagging behind Cheyenne and Phoenix when it comes to providing services to the homeless, especially the mentally ill. We have some new services coming on line in the next several years that should be helpful. But has Mike Pyle noted, not a lot of people here are sympathetic to the plight of the homeless.

    • bruce vojtecky says:

      Most people everywhere are not sympathetic to the homeless. But, to offset that, there are many people that are sympathetic to the plight of the homeless, which seems to not be the case in Redding.
      As most of the homeless helpers, I would guesstomate 95%, are religious based I would ask what Bethel’s stance on Redding’s homeless is.

      • In Bethel’s recruitment literature, the church states that it doesn’t want people who have drug and alcohol issues because Bethel’s gift is too intense for them to handle. The church has also been accused of buying up the local housing supply for its students, causing a shortage of affordable housing. I haven’t seen anyone crank the numbers on that.

  3. chris solberg says:

    Very good article RV. nothing like humanizing the plight of the homeless… Careful , somebody might mistake you for a homeless advocate 😉

    Im thinking George Koen would make a wonderful guest writer on the local homeless issues here. Sad though should there be some kind of protest action many will not be informed because now the pay site thing. And political protest actions are just around the corner….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrGgS8ExsVc

    And to answer your question about Bethel Mr Vojtecky.

    Bethel Church and Redding Police Join Forces to Destroy Homeless Camps

    http://reddinghomeless.blogspot.com/2012/07/bethel-church-and-redding-police-join.html

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoRVPDVqeJQ

    Ex Mayor Of Redding Plans To Turn Sprinklers On Sleeping Homeless In Park !

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knth_Ih0PRc

    Former Mayor Angry Plans To Turn Sprinklers On Sleeping Homeless Park Questioned

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6HU5gEReIk

    No secret here, seems diabolically obvious … Redding California city government I believe will use new pot dispensary regulations and tax revenue to hire new “Marijuana” code enforcement officers to ride the already broken backs of our continually criminalized homeless population.

    For years the homeless who have tried to take refuge at the Good News Rescue Mission have confided to me they refuse to stay there because the program members run the facility like a ” prison yard,” And I can personally attest I have seen more drugs at the mission then on the street. Seems like a good representation of Redding Police Chief Roger Moore’s description of South City Park at a recent city council meeting.

    One day at a recently raided homeless camp, I asked the Redding police community service officer … ” Its just us … tell me … knowing what you know. would you, or if you had a family and no other option, stay at the Good News Rescue Mission?

    “No” was his response.

    So if Redding police community service officer Bob Brannon because of conditions would never stay at the mission, Redding’s only night time homeless shelter, why do we expect the homeless population to freely want to do so?

    Alas nowhere to go.

    ( This article was fair, and well written… I will be Facebook / Twitter promoting this story link far and wide… Well done RV and Doni ) 🙂

  4. darcie says:

    Reno library has a special room for the homeless. It is glassed in and the patrons can be seen by staff. The unpleasantness of body odor and of ‘normal’ people having to sit next to them or interact is removed. Both populations belong. Don’t know how they label the room but would be worth a phone call from the city to see how it is working there.

    • Right now the computers are set up in an open space in the middle of the library’s second floor. You’re correct that hygiene issues can be a problem for regular folks using the computers, because I’ve experienced it myself. The Redding Library has enough space to do something similar to Reno if they have the will.

  5. James Montgomery James Montgomery says:

    I think that people who write articles like this should be required to be residents of downtown Redding. Its pretty easy to be sympathetic when it is not your stuff that is being stolen, and you don’t have to deal with it on a daily basis.
    I lived in downtown Redding for 17 years, just recently moving. Surprising how it changes your perspective. It is certainly true that not all the homeless are criminals, but an awful lot of them are. Until we can jail the criminals and keep them there, we just have to break up the congregation areas. The Park is the worst of these places, right now.

    • Michael Kuker says:

      I live in Downtown Redding (about as downtown as you can get) and I have literally never had a problem with the homeless people. Leafblowing parking lots at 7 a.m. is much more of a detriment to quality of life downtown.

    • Your point is well taken, James. I don’t live in downtown Redding and thus haven’t been victimized by the criminal members of the transient population there. I have however written extensively about the low level criminals spawned by AB 109 and I’m acutely aware of the crime problems in Redding. As you know, “it’s certainly true that not all homeless are criminals.” I agree, and we shouldn’t treat them as such.

      • James Montgomery James Montgomery says:

        You should not think that I am not in favor of helping my brothers and sisters. I used to give food and water (never money) to folks in need who passed by.
        However, I have come to the conclusion that our welfare system and most philanthropy do not help people, but simply make them dependent on handouts. Anyone who wants to work should have suitable work available, or job training, and those who are drug and alcohol dependent should be able to get help with recovery. But supporting people to live indolent lives just enables them to continue on the long downward run to moral degradation.
        In the short run, closing up the Park will help protect the decent people who live in the neighborhood, but it IS a shame to see it. Too bad we can’t just incarcerate the criminals, instead.

    • Richard Christoph says:

      James,

      From reading some of the comments following yours, it seems as though one’s tolerance for aberrant behavior is in inverse proportion to one’s proximity to it.

      The neighborhood misses you.

      • James Montgomery James Montgomery says:

        I don’t miss the neighborhood, but I certainly do miss many of the neighbors. A lot of really fine people in the Lassen View area. Why don’t you and Terri come up for brunch some morning? I make a pretty decent omelette.

  6. Mary says:

    Quit letting criminals being dumped here. It’s pretty sad when you let them take over a town. We did not have all the car thefts and home robberies before that started. A lot of these people that are out there it is their choice. They want to be free. Yes and live off the county. Quit the handouts maybe they will go away. Only help the ones that are mentally ill and Vets. The rest need to clean their ass up and get a real life. Work for what you want!!!!!

    • Mary, criminals aren’t being “dumped” here. Under AB 109, low level criminals are now our responsibility to incarcerate and rehabilitate. We can’t send them off to prison anymore, like we used to do, at the highest rate of all of California’s 58 counties. The uptick in car break-ins has been attributed to Prop. 47, which raised the amount for felony theft from $450 to $950. If you strip away the criminal element from the general transient population, I’d wager the majority of them suffer from some level of mental illness. I’m pleased you support helping these people.

      • Ned Estill says:

        This bears repeating, “We can’t send them off to prison anymore, like we used to do, at the highest rate of all of California’s 58 counties.” 100% correct. Back then we didn’t need a bigger jail, we just shipped them off to the state pen, on the state’s dime. It’s easy to brag about being tough on crime when someone else is footing the bill. Now we’re reaping what we sowed, with interest.

        • Kinda makes you wonder how the Shasta County Board of Supervisors proposed public safety tax increase is going to fair in the fall election, doesn’t it?

          • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

            R.V., do you know if that tax increase would be specifically allocated to public safety, or would it go into the general fund?

          • Ned Estill says:

            Well, it’s a moot point now. The R/S is reporting that the BOS have abandoned their plans to place a sales tax increase on the November ballot. C’est la vie.

          • Oh I missed that news about the BOS while I was out. My headline next week was gonna be: Percentage Chance Shasta County Voters Pass Public Safety Tax Increase: ZERO.

            To answer you question Hal, I believe it was gonna be a special tax requiring the 66 percent majority to pass.

  7. Beverly Stafford says:

    As always, R.V., this is a well-written and thoughtful article. That Reno library idea sounds do-able. I’d add that all the chairs should be plastic rather than fabric because using the chairs as a toilet has been an issue.

  8. Dan says:

    Sweeping generalizations have created problems since the stone age. 25 years ago a psychiatrist and chief of the ER at Stanford gave me a 10-minute tongue lashing with an audience of medical students for using the term “homeless” for a woman (semi-regular patient) I brought in on a 51/50 hold. I can feel my ears turning red even now from the “teaching moment”-(Ass chewing with an audience.. the lesson- “every patient is unique with unique issues”). Until we deal with legal and medical issues of mental health on a national level, and the issue of crime on a local and state level, and separate the two, “we” and “they” will continue to suffer. More local & federal jail space for the apex predators, Laura’s law implementation (conservatorships) for the mentally “walking wounded” would be a beginning to sort out the issue.

    • Dan I run into the problem you encountered at Stanford every time I write about the homeless. What do I call these people? Especially when a large portion of the population considers homeless a synonym for criminal. There’s no question this is a federal, state and local problem. I don’t expect to see a lot of progress at the federal level on this issue.

  9. Jen says:

    I have been homeless . And no not all homeless are drug addicts or thieves. I am not a Redding native but have been here almost twenty years. I also worked for an organization that used to help out with certain situations such as working to pay court fines, to pay bills , find housing. I am not sure if any of that exists any more. So sad to me to hear that you can’t even feel safe at the mission. I help out when I can. Or see that someone is trying to help them self’s.we as a culture are losing our humanity. It saddens me. Some people just need a leg up. Can’t get a job because of criminal record or bad credit.phone or car . Fresh starts can not happen if there is nowhere to begin. Not enough low income housing . Not enough work programs. And it’s everywhere. Not just here.

    • Yes Jen, it’s everywhere and it seems to be increasing. The rent’s too damned high everywhere, even in Redding. It’s frightening to see so many people living in the streets, up and down the state.

      • Paul says:

        “The rent’s too damned high everywhere, even in Redding.”
        Is it? Financially, it can be hard to get enough rent to cover expenses, including covering risk of damage and being sued, and make a profit. Housing is expensive. Expensive to build and to maintain. The local and state building regulations add more and more cost and trouble to housing, such as the requirement that most new houses in CA have solar panels starting in 2020. The problem of homelessness is, perhaps, more of a symptom than an illness. It’s tied into many other issues.

  10. First off, the city obviously doesn’t know the state is in a drought, so they plan to run the sprinklers all night. Some math genius needs to figure out the cost of that water. Then they should add that to all the other money they spend on policing the homeless.

    Pooling that money they could find suitable accommodations for these folks. Need ideas, talk to folks like RV’s main source and other like him. I am betting if they did the problems would diminish to a tolerable level.

    The gentleman who said if you are going to write about the Redding homeless you should live in Redding, I suppose he would have to live in Afghanistan to write about it. Really!!

    I do live in Redding and I see homeless in my travels almost every day. Spent a lot of time thinking about the problem, most of which would be instantly disapproved. RV in this story gave me a new idea. There are obviously other folks who care about this problem and if organized could solve this problem. More police and more harassment will just make the problem worse.

    Other cities who have discovered that providing services and places to sleep, even just an open area where they can set up tents, have porta-potties and even showers are possible if proper supervisions are provided. Even if you had to pay for some of those who care to supervise I think you would find it is cheaper.

    On occasion, when I intended to give some money, I would get their story , may be true or not, it doesn’t matter. A 20 here or there only helps a little and I feel sad that I don’t have more to give. I often dream about becoming really rich and could run around town throwing $100 bills.

    If I was in charge I would find an open space, probably industrial, to limit citizen problems. provide toilets and showers, water hot and cold, with places to erect tents. Have their own, in paid jobs, police the place to maintain order.

    Instead of spending to solve the problem, it gets worse and worse, perhaps it’s time to listen to the homeless who know what it would take.

    Great article son
    Donnie I will pay up as soon as I solve my credit care problem

    • Thanks Dad. Doni recently proposed using the empty Stillwater Business Park to create a safe space for the homeless along the same ideas you present. However, I’m afraid such proposals fall upon deaf ears as for as local politicians are considered.

      • Beverly Stafford says:

        I’ve been posing that idea for a number of years, right here on ANC. Reminds me of President Lincloln’s plea to General McClellan when McClellan kept drilling the soldiers rather than going into battle. Lincoln said, “If General McClellan isn’t going to use his army, I’d like to borrow it for a time.” Since Redding isn’t using Stillwater (or Stillbirth as Doni termed it), the citizenry would like to borrow it for a time.

      • First, R.V., thank you for writing this interesting piece, and telling both sides of the story, and for putting faces to the population we’re addressing today.

        (I have also been criticized for using the term “homeless” in the past, and it’s a fair critique, since, as George says, that’s an unfair assumption. So I sometimes settle for “street people”.)

        I really appreciated the profiles, each of which illustrate the fact that this is not a one-size fits all situation. Thanks for digging deep, R.V.

        Actually, you’re correct that I wrote about my idea about my suggestion for a homeless village of sorts, but I’ve since revised (in a comment some time back) my original idea.

        Scratch the Stillwater location. Stay tuned for my updated plan in a column.

        • Beverly Stafford says:

          Waiting . . . !

        • Doni, maybe I picked up the term “street people” from you. I don’t recall using it before. But it kind of came naturally with the two women in the story. There were in cars, and then they were on there feet, in the street. Everything looks farther away in 106 degree heat. No wonder so many people are bonkers here!

    • Mr. Scheide, I love when you comment.

      I appreciate your support, but most of all, I’m glad you had RV, because he does incredible work, and our community is better for it. I can tell by your writing that the RV apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

      I like the way you think about solutions for the homeless. We’ve addressed this so many times here on aNewsCafe.com. I think we should keep pushing until something’s done.

      Take care, Mr. Scheide. Stay cool.

  11. Richard Christoph says:

    I’ll re-post my ANC comment from 3-16-18, since it still seems germane to this discussion:

    “Stillwater is far removed from services and an encampment there is likely to discourage prospective businesses from making the investments needed to someday (we hope) make it successful.

    However, when Royal Burnett first had his RS Speak Your Piece published which recommended the County-owned property off Breslauer, we took the opportunity to visit and check it out. All the necessary County services are in close proximity, transportation is available, and the open space there could easily accommodate many of the currently unsheltered. Not a complete remedy, but a City-County collaboration there would be a start, and surely an improvement over what presently exists.”

  12. Guest contributor says:

    I liked this article.
    Not all prople living in the homeless population are criminals but most criminal activity we are dealing with in Redding (robberies, burglary, vandalism) are perpetrated BY those in the homeless population.
    -About 50% of my childhood we were homeless. Camping, sleeping in the car, sleeping in abandoned homes and crashing on friend’s floors until said friends got tired of my stepfather was normal.
    -My biological father died homeless on the street with an alcohol problem.
    -My mother is a homeless advocate who just received her Masters in Divinity because her goal is to start a homeless ministry.
    -I have one sister that has a severe mental illness (but zero drugs) and is roaming the streets homeless unless she is currently staying with whatever family member can handle her behavior. Since she isn’t forced to receive help and remain medicated this can be extremely hard. She’s been kicked out of the Mission and arrested several times.
    -I have another sister who was hooked on meth and homeless while stealing and dealing with her addict boyfriend (both of which were able to work and contribute to society). Thankfully my addicted sister is getting help now but she was certainly draining the system and stealing from stores and homes and selling drugs and SHE will acknowledge that herself.

    I feel I have a well rounded knowledge of the different folks in the homeless population and personal experience.

    This is my opinion…
    With the exception of those struggling with severe mental illness and children, Ive concluded if you’ve developed good healthy relationships in your life, are truly down on your luck and are willing to work, you wouldn’t spend one night on the street before you were back on your feet.
    I question anyone who says they have nowhere to go and didn’t create that problem themselves.

    I know my parents did. I know my addict sister did.
    (That said, grace should be applied and second chances are necessary for recovery.)

    But still-if you’re saying you have nowhere to go and you’ve been homeless for months and even years-you’ve created a world where the people in your life don’t want you near.
    Or you ARE choosing a lifestyle of homelessness. Which is your perogative. But not at the expense of the rest of the community using the parks, library and sidewalks. Again, just my opinion.

    • Richard Christoph says:

      Guest,

      Thanks for your informed opinion based on experience. Your unique perspective is appreciated.

    • Nice post Guest Contributor. I totally agree with you, no one in their right mind would choose to be homeless in this god forsaken heat. The people who are in their right minds do something about it, they can pull themselves out. I believe a high percentage on our streets in Redding today are mentally ill, including most of the criminals. One thing I have noticed, but no one appears to have crunched the numbers, is that the Redding homeless population seems like it has shrunk the past two years. I think maybe the people who can get out, get out. The ones who are stuck here are hurting the worst.

    • chris solberg says:

      What happened in 2006 / 2007 to cause the explosion in homelessness in our country?

  13. Randall Smith Randall Smith says:

    Really like “Guest” remarks and perspective. When individual responsibility fails, it is doubtful government can fill the void. T.R.’s “ I have a perfect horror of words that are not backed up by deeds.” seems fitting, if belated in this matter.

  14. Alli says:

    Just recently a homeless man convinced a lady to go on Craigslist look for a dog and give it to him. That was our puppy we called Carla. We met the lady she said she was a dog groomer and all that and also met a few other people and she seemed the best fit. Little did we know it was for him. Turns out he abused Carla and another homeless lady saved her found our ad on Craigslist and told us. We went to south city park to get our puppy back so she could go to a good home. The lady refused to give her back We werent going to fight her for it because we just watched all the homeless gang up on the other guy for coming to claim the dog she saved from him. We tried to get help from Animal control they said the legal owner is the guy that beat the dog so he’s the only one allowed to get the dog. ROD said all you can do is take them to court. NO USE because she would be gone by then. KRCR talked to us said they wanted to interview us but never got back to us

    • Alli, I get where you’re coming from. I know pets make great companions, I love dogs and cats, but I myself can’t really afford to have a dog or cat, because if it gets hurt or sick, I’ll spend $10,000 to save its life, when I wouldn’t spend that much to save my own life. Which is to say, pets are expensive, I don’t see how homeless people can afford those pets. But you know, pets are loyal, and waking up alone in some horrid thicket must be a little easier if your dog or cat is nearby. At least you can trust most dogs and cats.

  15. Jake everett says:

    Goerge is my grandpa and he’s doing right by supporting his cause I was homeless with him and my family for two years

  16. I too support the idea of creating a site for those who fall into any of the categories mentioned above. Other cities around the planet have done this and Redding/Shasta County need to seriously develop an encampment/housing zone, whatever it would be titled. The need is critical and should be done yesterday. The unused piece of property at Breslauer and East Side Rd is about as perfect as it will get. Round up an architect, a major fundraiser event, bring in the Bethel kids and get that property in shape for immediate housing that will be amenable to all weather conditions and safety. We have the resources here in our area to make it a model for others. It’s only a matter of time that the fenced off populations start drifting into neighborhoods such as Sunset Terrace, etc. Then the howling will begin.

  17. Mrs. Holden says:

    Nice article. Thank you.

  18. T. Allen says:

    Please readers, if you have the access to the internet, please watch the July 24, 2018 Shasta County Board of Supervisor’s meeting regarding the out come of the proposed Public Safety Tax agenda item R3 at the following link;
    https://www.co.shasta.ca.us/index/bos_index/bos_agenda.aspx

    The Public Safety Tax was proposed at a Board of Supervisor’s Special Meeting on July 10, 2018, agenda item R1 which can also be viewed at the above link.

    As we, the residents of Shasta County and the Incorporated Cities within Shasta County, move forward in the political arena you will have the facts from the videos for additional information for your decision making.

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