Why It’s Best To Call Journalists Back

I’d call me back. Selfie by R.V.

All I really wanted to know when I called the Good News Rescue Mission’s office a week-and-a-half ago was one simple thing: What, pray tell, is the Mission’s capacity?

That number was important to the story I was working on, “Is Redding Cruel and Unusual?” which concerns the Redding City Council’s revision of the city’s anti-homeless camping ordinance. The revisions, passed unanimously by the city council last week, were in response to a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision last September declaring such ordinances unconstitutional if there is not enough “available shelter” in the area.

In order to leap this hurdle—the Eight Amendment provisions against laws that are “cruel and unusual”—the city claims the Good News Rescue Mission, the only major homeless shelter in Shasta County, never reaches full capacity.

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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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48 Responses

  1. Bruce Vojtecky says:

    Living in Cheyenne and now Phoenix the response by homeless shelters to news sources has been completely different than Redding. I have written LTTE and made comments, one in OC about Glendale yesterday, based on the openness of those homeless programs to TV and print news.
    The only reluctant care facilities that haven’t been open but are now legally being investigated have been Hacienda Healthcare, which made national news, and Southwest Key Immigration holdings. which also made the national news. Now the findings about those two verges on illegal, corrupt, or worse.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      I am by no means alleging any kind of impropriety at the Good News Rescue Mission. I’m sure they do the best they can with what they have. The issue here for me is city policy that’s potentially unconstitutional is being based on the idea that the Mission is never full and its services are primarily secular–just as Boise Rescue Mission claimed, unsuccessfully, in the Ninth Circuit’s decision.

      • Bruce Vojtecky says:

        What is Bethel’s response to the homeless as they have members on the CC? I know Utah’s housing first for the homeless started with help from the Mormon Church and it still helps out with some funding but largely stay out of the way. Does Bethel, or McConnell, guide Redding policy on homelessness? In Cheyenne the Cheyenne Frontier Days committee, as well as other groups, donated money to Comea House, the main homeless shelter in Cheyenne.
        As Cheyenne and Redding are similar in population and political leanings I often compare the two.

  2. Patricia Barrett says:

    I had considered sending Rescue Mission Director Jonathan Anderson an email asking him why he’s now claiming that the Mission has never been at full capacity, when a statement on the Mission’s website (which appeared in a now-defunct “FAQ’s” section not more than a few months ago) stated it has been at capacity for years, and that a considerable percentage of people who occupy its limited space are forced to sleep on the floor. Given the information in the outstanding (and riveting) article above, I don’t think I’ll bother.

    The removal of that statement was fairly concurrent with the decision by the 9th Circuit Court that cities may not arrest/harass homeless people if adequate emergency shelter space or other local alternatives to the streets are not available. In my personal opinion this is not a coincidence.

  3. Paul Lehman says:

    Not sure I see the issue with taking a tour even after the fact…maybe three hours of your time to get answers would be worth it as I’m sure there are several people that would like to know the answers to your line of questioning. It may also lead to getting your 24-hour visitation request for further reporting. It I guess this all stems from the fact that I’m a big fan of in-depth investigative reporting.

    • Patricia Barrett says:

      Paul – Mission Director Jonathan Anderson stated in his communication above that only one or two answers MAY be forthcoming following the carefully-controlled Mission tour and the debriefing afterwards (which I believe is to gage R.V.’s reaction, and to determine if he’s been suitably impressed). I personally doubt that we’d get much more information than we have now, given how evasive Anderson appears to be.

      Also, I’ve had dealings with every Mission director for the past 40 years, and it would surprise me greatly if Anderson agreed to allow R.V. to spend 24 hours there. The fact that he hasn’t responded to that request in any manner probably tells us everything we need to know on that subject.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Well Paul Lehman, there’s always a chance Mr. Anderson will take me up on my offer, though it’s a lot slimmer now that this story came out. But so far, he hasn’t responded. This isn’t the first time I’ve been stiffed by public officials and/or pr people in Shasta County, originally I was going to include several other characters who haven’t returned my calls.

  4. Tim says:

    If I was at the mission, the tone and content of your questions would leave me to believe you had an existing hostile narrarive in mind and were searching only for confirming evidence. I wouldn’t return your call either, for fear that you’d quote shop and take one statement from a longer conversation out of context.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      All I really wanted to know was the Mission’s capacity. There’s no hostility in that question. This should be an easy answer, especially considering public policy is being made on it.

      • Tim says:

        From satellite images, the mission has approximately 11,625 square feet of floor space. If people were just lying on the floor and each took 24 square feet (8’×3′), the capacity would be 484. Bunk beds would increase this, as would doubling up per bed.

        If it were a restaurant, International Building Code would dictate 15 square feet per person for a capacity of 775. If it were a dancehall, IBC would dictate 7 square feet per person for a maximum occupancy of 1660.

        However, for a building with stairs you need 0.3″ of doorway per person. I count 5 doors (2 double doors and 1 single door), but there may be a 6th door hidden from view of googlemaps. Each door should be at least 36″ wide, giving a capacity of 120 people per door. 6 doors equals 720 people…

        Shasta County had ~750 homeless at the last count, Redding would presumably have half that (you can argue that homeless are under counted, but they also count housed couch surfers as homeless).

        Cliff notes: The mission could hold 600-720 people (depending on the number of fire exits) and stay compliant with building code, easily exceeding the official number of homeless in Redding.

        • Patricia Barrett says:

          Tim – The Rescue Mission is the only homeless shelter for the entire county, so it really doesn’t matter how those numbers are divided. And I believe it would be safe to argue that the 750 figure is a GROSS under-count, since it would be impossible for a small group of volunteers to count every single homeless person in this entire vast county in a single day.

          The actual capacity of the Mission (on which this entire issue rests) is a simple question. Why should it be impossible to get a simple answer? (from anyone).

          • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

            I wonder if any of the directors of homeless population surveys ever use the methodologies of wildlife biologists (e.g., mark/recapture)? In order to determine population sizes, we rarely attempt an absolute count. The estimated population calculations we use are far more accurate than incomplete counts.

          • Bruce Vojtecky says:

            Steve, I love it, capture, tag, release. Then the homeless could be tracked like wild animals.

          • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

            Steve, I think wildlife biologists might run into the same problem, since one reason the present method is considered an underestimate is many homeless people refuse to participate in the process, period.

        • George Koen says:

          I was at the mission for over a year. Your numbers are unrealistic at best when speaking of sleep space.

          • Tim says:

            I’m talking about what’s possible given the building code limitations of square footage and # of exits, not what is. The 3 story mission building has a footprint of about 75 × 45 feet. One floor could house triple bunks that stack 3 twins in a space 42″ wide x 80″ long x 96″ tall in the following array:

            bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed
            bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed
            bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed
            isle isle isle isle isle isle isle isle isle isle isle isle
            bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed
            bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed
            bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed
            isle isle isle isle isle isle isle isle isle isle isle isle
            bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed
            bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed
            bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed bed isle bed
            isle isle isle isle isle isle isle isle isle isle isle isle

            That results in 216 beds in a grid 40 feet wide by 69 feet long. 2 floors could therefore sleep 432 people, with a 3rd floor for cafeteria & bathrooms and the other 45 x 30 foot building for kitchen & office space.

            I’m sure that isn’t the layout they use and they may not be able to do exactly that due to structural pillars and stairway layouts, but it is a back of the envelope estimate that shows the mission is sufficiently large to shelter Redding’s 375 homeless if efficiently configured and scheduled (e.g. the cafeteria might only be able to serve 1 floor at a time).

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Keep in mind Tim, he’d already read the original story, so he was aware of what my narrative framework was based on–the Ninth Circuit’s decision that homeless camping ordinances such as Redding’s are unconstitutional. That court case is what my questions are based on, and if that’s hostile, well, welcome to the wonderful world of journalism, where sometimes you have to ask questions people don’t want to answer.

      For the record, Mr. Anderson said they were excellent questions, people ask him the same questions all the time, and as soon as he figures out the answers, he’ll put them up on the Missions’s website.

  5. Anita Brady says:

    Must be a narrow tight-rope for the GNRM director to walk to raise funds by saying “we are at capacity and need $$$” and at the same time saying to the city “we never reach capacity.” Meanwhile as I understand it, the City is going to be legally entangled by those who will try to stop the ordinance voted in last week. Great use of city funds, time and energy when those same resources could be used to house the chronically homeless.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Anita Brady, I do think Mr. Anderson has been put in a bind here. As far as any legal challenges to Redding’s revised ordinance, I won’t be surprised if a challenge is mounted, because Boise enacted the same revisions in 2010, only to see the ordinance struck down by the Ninth Circuit.

  6. Ginny adorador says:

    I can attest that the “three-hour tour” (cracked me up) is mind-numbingly chipper and incredible self-serving to the mission and those who run it. I do not believe Anderson or anyone else at the mission is going to give actual numbers. They wouldn’t answer my direct questions before or after my tour. However, I would imagine the fire department would be required to have those numbers, public safety and all. Hmmm….interesting.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      I’d be pretty disappointed if I took the tour and still didn’t get any answers on the Mission’s actual capacity. Perhaps it is 500 people, as then candidate Michael Dacquisto stated in September. I’ve emailed him to find out if he knows what the actual capacity is. Hopefully he’ll return the email.

  7. Ginny adorador says:

    Excellent article, as usual, R.V.

  8. Robert Scheide Sr. says:

    First off a couple of disclaimers: RV is my first born and I am a monthly contributor to the Mission.

    I won’t swear to this but their monthly newsletter has mentioned a capacity of 200 most nights.

    All that to mean is not the main question. The question should be why are they in bed with the city council, using a ride along policeman is a very bad idea especially if you are really trying to help the homeless. You show up with a cop the first reaction of the homeless would be to run because they suspect what will come next. A ticket and the loss of their hard collected possessions.

    A whole lot questions remain, but the one that needs to be answered is this law still unconstitutional if it is it needs to be gone.

    The problem remains , nobody wants to do anything to help these folks who are comprised. The reasons these folks are on the street varies from vets with problems from the wars, those victims of our crooked institutions, drugs, alcohol, loss of a job and unable to find work. It really doesn’t matter why they are out there, they are human beings, in trouble and we owe them help not tickets and jail.

    It is time to put pressure city hall to knock off this unconstitutional crap. It is bad enough we have to tolerate a cruel president which could care less what we think of him,but we don’t have to tolerate a cruel city hall.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      “It is bad enough we have to tolerate a cruel president which could care less what we think of him,but we don’t have to tolerate a cruel city hall.”

      Excellent point, Dad!

    • Patricia Barrett says:

      Mr. Scheide,

      What an impressive and insightful comment. Those reasons also include the lack of available housing (Redding’s rental vancancy rate was less than 2 percent, even BEFORE the fires), jobs that don’t pay enough to support housing in this area of low wages, and physical and mental disabilities (groups that Mission Director Jonathan Anderson admits the Mission often doesn’t serve).

      • Bruce Vojtecky says:

        I see on the national news where the Camp Fire shelter at the Red Bluff fairgrounds is closing with those people having nowhere else to go.

        • CODY says:

          It is the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico, where 600 people are still staying, that is closing at the end of the month.

          Those people are in a bad situation, as the housing availablility in Butte County was bad even before the Camp Fire.

  9. Robert Scheide Sr. says:

    I would guess that a lot of homeless would be satisfied with a field, some blue rooms, and clean water, and to be left alone. A daily clean up crew could keep it cleaned up. The work gang could be comprised of jailed prisoners to do the cleanup. Yep it will cost money, probably a lot less than they spend ticketing and jailing them.

    It appears to me that we need to take a different attitude towards those less fortunate than us. I have never had a moment’s trouble from any homeless but I didn’t spend that much time in town till I moved to town a while back. I have often thought what I would do if I suddenly got a million bucks. It would make me feel very t good to ride around town giving money to any homeless I find. No judgment just a little help. Right now I limited to an occasional 20 bucks Do I care what they do with it.NO

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      I periodically re-read “The Untied Way” columns that Jon Carroll of the SF Chronicle used to run in one form or another every year. I confess that it’s been a few years since I’ve heeded his advice. I also confess that when I’ve practiced The Untied Way in the past, the recipients weren’t exactly a random selection of the down-and-out—I tended to favor the elderly.

      https://www.sfchronicle.com/entertainment/article/It-s-time-again-for-the-Untied-Way-6631166.php

      • Linda Cooper says:

        I’ve never heard of “The Untied Way.” About ten years ago, I was outside Carnegie’s in Redding. An elderly man approached me for money for a cup of coffee. It was cold outside. I was in a mood. I thought to myself, I don’t give a heck what cash is in my wallet, I’m giving whatever is in the wallet. Happened to be a twenty. I still remember the man’s clear, blue eyes. His appreciation. It felt good to give.

    • Ginny adorador says:

      Mr. Scheide, My long held belief about giving money to people is this, It is a gift, and once I give someone a gift what they do with it is no longer under my control nor does it need to be. I withhold all judgement (or at least try very hard to) about where my money goes. If I was homeless I don’t know what I would do but I often wonder if I would be drinking a bottle of whiskey at 10 am or using some sense numbing drug daily. Maybe I would, it is incredibly hard out on the streets. As much as I know about it it is worse than even I can imagine. Mr. Scheide, please continue to give to people when you are called to. I know, that sometimes, what seems a small act of kindness can keep a person going when they felt they couldn’t go anymore.

  10. Candace C says:

    R.V. Sr.
    “Right now I’m limited to an occasional 20 bucks. Do I care what they do with it. NO”
    You are a man after my own heart. My own personal philosophy is that when I give to the less fortunate I give with no expectation. If I were wanting an expectation to be met I suppose I might do that with a loan that had agreed upon strings attached but that is not my intention with homeless strangers. If I give $20 to a homeless person that’s my choice. If they buy food with it, that’s their choice. If they buy cigarettes and booze with it that’s their choice as well. Would I choose to trade my life with theirs? Nope. Do I feel incredibly lucky that I’m not homeless? Yep.

  11. Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

    What a well-written article! It truly inspires me to read articles like yours on anewscafe.com. True journalism is alive and well.

    You have a gift for clearly describing the issues, factually and also compassionately. (And as I read your father’s posts, I see where you inherited that gift.)

    Thank you for shining a light on this very important issue for our community! Well Done!

  12. Candace C says:

    Terry, I agree with you whole- heartedly on all points. R.V.’s pieces seem to me to be even handed and well researched. I always look forward to reading him.

  13. CODY says:

    Many of those questions could be answered with a simple Yes or No, or a short sentence.

    Instead there is obfuscation, excuses, and stalling. My guess is that a tour would just result in more smoke and mirrors, in lieu of answers to questions.

    The Fire Marshall should have maximum occupancy numbers – perhaps it is even posted there somewhere.

  14. Patricia Barrett says:

    Yes – R.V. Scheide and anewscafe deserve a huge amount of credit for writing and publishing exceptional articles like this.

  15. Linda Cooper says:

    I’m too am impressed with this article. Not only did I laugh over the author’s questions, I thought, damn he’s good. And I would love to know the answers.

    I readily agree, it’s important to respond to journalists. In my way back when machine, when I served as state employee, it was my personal policy to be open and prompt with requests from the media. And I also made that commitment in regard to inquiries from the public. As an aside, and I’m serious, I once received a phone call asking me where they could sue the State because her mother had a sliver from a fence in a State Park. I referred the caller to the Sacramento headquarters, yet made sure I repeated my name in case she had more questions.

    This served me well. Once, I experience a big “thing” in the Trinity County Journal, and perhaps the Searchlight. The “thing” lasted for over four months. My name in the mud. The issue was over “retiring” textile banners from the Weaverville Joss to storage. I’ve always wanted to submit a story about this, because the resolution was, in my mind, famous. It was a Taoist priest who resolved the issue. The story died down. The glasses of wine at night had stopped.

    A month later, KSBW called me up for an interview. I said, of course. I will show you the textiles, the storage unit where they are located. Everything. I would just like you to know, that this issue has been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. And I am personally at ease. What time would you like to meet?

    The nice person on the phone said, “uh, I get it.”

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      I….uh….I feel like I NEED to hear the story of the Taoist priest resolving a months-long conflict over retiring textile banners (?!) from the Weaverville Joss House. How am I supposed to sleep at night not knowing why this was a big enough conflict to cause the dragging of your name through the mud (or naming you Mudd) for months, and why a Taoist priest was needed to resolve it?

      Seriously.

      • Linda Cooper says:

        Well, …uh..in retrospect I will write something out and land it to Doni. Just for you, Mr. Seriously. All my images were lost in the fire. Let’s see how vivid my writing skills are. Cliff hanger, the Taoist priest answered some questions (in my mind) about the Bethel perspective. In today time. It was a dark and stormy night in Weaverville. That’s where I will begin.

  16. I love you all; first, R.V., for writing this column and giving a behind-the-scenes peek at what it takes to get story; and second — one of the best parts about ANC — you, the family of subscribers who comment and discuss and cajole and disagree and examine with intellect, humor and civility.

    Finally, I absolutely adore having Mr. Scheide weigh in on his son’s work. Double Scheides, What a treat.

  17. Robert Scheide Sr. says:

    Thanks Donnie

  18. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Excellent article R.V. I can’t wait to read Linda Cooper’s article. The Joss house is one of my favorite places on earth.

  19. George Koen says:

    As a past ‘guest’ and volunteer (mostly overnight in the sleep area called the chapel) at the mission, I can assure you there is nowhere near the space to accommodate all of Reddings homeless on a given night! Just not possible. Winter always has the highest capacity.
    The mission is so fiercely protective of itself, any enquiring mind is left wondering what is really going on. Certainly they have policies but I found that the execising of said policies is arbitrary at best.
    Certainly the mission is needed, but not as it exists today.

  20. CHRISTIAN GARDINIER says:

    This should be simple….. Right? Doesn’t the The City Of Redding Government have fire law and capacity ordnance for all public business and gathering spaces that require a sign is post in public view? Don’t all hotels and motels have a capacity limit set by the fire marshal and building department? Doesn’t the fire marshal inspect the mission? If not, why and what is being hidden?

  21. CHRISTIAN GARDINIER says:

    One last thing…. The Road Home…. I have heard of this place for a few years now. NPR did a great story on them a while back. 91% outcome rate getting people off the streets in a humane way. https://www.theroadhome.org/

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