Sheltering Shasta County’s ‘Criminal Homeless’

It appears that what began as a discussion of funding from the State of California to address homeless housing has quickly devolved into yet another discussion of how to increase the number of jail beds in Shasta County.

On February 26, Shasta County’s Housing and Community Actions Program Director, Laura Burch, gave a presentation to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors about the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP), which provides California state funds to local jurisdictions as an emergency response to homelessness. Shasta County Health and Human Services director, Donnell Ewert, spoke next, with a presentation on the proposed “Navigation Center” that would provide “low barrier” sheltering for the homeless. Low-barrier shelters do not make access contingent on requirements such as sobriety, criminal record, and identification. Objections were voiced, and encouragement given, and the BOS moved on with other business, asking Donnell Ewert to return to present again at a later time.

But only a short three months later, it’s Anderson’s Chief of Police, Mike Johnson, and Shasta County District Attorney, Stephanie Bridgett, whose voices seem to be the loudest on the topic. A review of recent Shasta County Board of Supervisors minutes indicates that Bridgett and Jones present a united front on the necessity of integrating a misdemeanor detention facility into any plans for increased homeless sheltering in the county. And they seem to be steering the conversation.

The concept of integrating a new kind of jail into homeless sheltering is a bit ironic considering that the conversation about the creation of a county shelter, particularly a “low barrier” shelter, has been necessitated in part due to a recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that it’s a violation of the 8th amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment to criminalize the homeless for sleeping outside, unless a viable option for them to sleep inside exists. In the process, news articles highlighted the deficiencies of our area’s current homeless shelter, the Good News Rescue Mission, which, as the name indicates, is faith based. The Good News Rescue Mission does not have adequate capacity for the number of homeless in Shasta County and does not meet typical criteria for a low-barrier shelter.

I say ironic because integrating misdemeanor detention into a low barrier shelter seems inherently contradictory. Won’t making a jail a part of the deal in and of itself introduce a significant barrier to sheltering for the homeless?

But if not a new detention center, then what to do about our “criminal homeless” population, so referred to by DA Bridgett during the May 14, 2019 Board of Supervisors meeting? As I overheard recently, it’s those homeless who are committing misdemeanor crimes that we need to be worried about. The speaker, a local politician who shall remain nameless since this person probably didn’t know I was listening, went on to say that we have to treat the “criminal homeless” population differently than the the rest of the homeless. But how different are they? After all, someone becomes a criminal the moment we prosecute them for:

  • Illegal camping
  • Panhandling
  • Loitering
  • Drinking alcohol in public
  • Urinating in a public place

And the list goes on. So was DA Bridgett, in referring to the “criminal homeless”, talking about those who are criminals BECAUSE they are homeless, and therefore breaking ordinances against sleeping outside, camping in public parks, and loitering? Or is she talking about the those homeless who are wanted for crimes unrelated to their living unsheltered? As we decide how to allocate limited funding for sheltering our homeless population, this question is an important one to answer, because unless we are careful, this is how it will go: First we pass ordinances criminalizing the everyday actions of the transient population. Next we call them the “criminal homeless” and build them a new kind of jail to shelter in, against their wills. This is what is frequently referred to as “criminalizing homelessness”.

The California Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council manages the aforementioned HEAP funding for California counties experiencing a “shelter crisis.” They define such a crisis as a situation in which a “significant number of persons are without the ability to obtain shelter, resulting in a threat to their health and safety.” In other words, the crisis is defined by the health and safety needs of the homeless, not those whose “quality of life” is impacted by transients. We do well to keep this in mind.

The term “quality of life crimes” is thought to have first been used during the early ’90s in New York City policing during the Giulianiera. It’s closely related to broken windows theory which advocates that prosecuting minor criminal infractions will help prevent more significant crimes. Anyone who’s left a dish out on the counter and then returned an hour later to find three more dirty dishes on the counter, recognizes the inherent reasonableness of broken windows theory. Yes, leaving things damaged, messy, and unkempt does seem to beget more of the same.

So how do we address the broken window effects that impact the quality of life that matters to everyone; the privileged, the poor and the majority in-between who are affected, perhaps most, by public urination, public drinking, and other “disruptions of the peace?” Those in neighborhoods most affected by Redding’s homeless populations deserve a reasonable quality of life. And so do the homeless.

But how do we get there? Could it be possible that failure to provide adequate, clean and well-cared-for publically available bathrooms in our downtown areas is at least in part responsible for the urination and defecation happening in public? Is it possible that the lack of low barrier sheltering is at least in part responsible for illegal camping? Could we provide better mental health services and responses? Could we provide more reasonable access to a sobering center and rehabilitation services?

And what about Sheriff Tom “We-Need-More-Jail-Beds” Bosenko’s statements, yet again, at recent BOS meetings, that we have inadequate detention facilities to respond to these so-called criminal homeless? Tempting, but with a 27% increase in available Shasta County jail beds in the last year, perhaps it’s time to focus some money and energy on the kind of emergency housing that comes without bars.

Costs per night for low barrier sheltering in Shasta County have yet to be determined, but in Bakersfield, California, the Housing First program costs $12k/person annually. This is in comparison to the $40k the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that it costs society for a person to live on the streets. This is because people who are housed in supportive environments require far fewer expensive police and medical responses than the homeless, reducing their cost to society. Notably it also costs us $40k annually to incarcerate the homeless (or anyone) in the Shasta County Jail.

While the Apostle Paul, and later John Smith of Jamestown, famously stated “he who does not work shall not eat” it was Jesus who, somewhat less famously, said, “the poor you will always have with you”. This is a truth that those of us in Shasta County know well. And because the poor, the transients, will always be with us, we must somehow design a society that’s responsive to them. That finds a way to meet the needs of those who will not work and therefore often do not eat. A way to respond to those whose mental, emotional, and physical health has driven them to the streets or seems to keep them there. And we do this not just for them but for us; because when we respond to the needs of the poor in appropriate and reasonable ways, the quality of life for all will improve.

Or . . . . we can build and operate more jails. Just don’t forget the obvious: we’re paying for homeless housing either way.

Authors Note:

  • Wondering what a low barrier shelter is? Take a peek at this checklist from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, recommended by The US Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Annelise Pierce
Annelise Pierce is fascinated by the intersection of people and policy. She has a special interest in criminal justice, poverty, mental health and education. Her long and storied writing career began at age 11 when she won the Louisa May Alcott Foundation's Gothic Romance short story competition. (Spoiler alert - both hero and heroine die.) Annelise welcomes your (civil) interactions at
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

51 Responses

  1. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    I predict Shasta County will choose the “or” route: more jail space, more criminalization of the poor and the mentally ill. It’s the only thing they know how to do, and the only thing their narrow-minded political constituency will support.

    • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

      RV, as usual I will post what works elsewhere, but as usual it will probably fall on deaf ears in Redding.

  2. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    It is not just Redding but everywhere else that is facing what to do about the homeless. In Phoenix it was estimated the homeless population increased 27% this year. One group addressing this is the Phoenix Rescue Mission, sister organization to the Redding Rescue Mission. They have teamed with the city of Glendale to use the homeless, and pay them, to clean up public parks. In Cheyenne, Comea House, keeps a list of responsible homeless that anyone can hire for day work.

  3. Avatar Tim says:

    If we find a way to meet the needs of those who *will not* work, we will only encourage more to leave the workforce. Moral Hazard 101…

    Coming home from a productive day’s work and providing for yourself/your family does more good for your pysche than all the booze, bud, or benzos in the world. And there is plenty of work available, especially after the fires.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      More than one-third of the people on our and America’s streets are mentally ill and incapable of doing work. And the ones who are capable, who’s gonna hire them, without some serious retrofitting? I’ll trade your moral hazard for the physical hazard some of these folks pose to the non-homeless community any day.

      Then again, we could just let them die.

      • Avatar Doug Cook says:

        Then lets take care of those people…Nobody is against helping those that need mental health assistance. Two-thirds of the homeless are substance abusers, and it is my guess that few of them want to stop abusing drugs or alcohol. We should have plenty of resources to handle the mentally ill. Tough love with the rest, those that are breaking into our homes and cars to steal to support their habit.

        • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

          Doug Cook,

          How could two-thirds of the homeless be substance-addicted? Per all the local organizations, agencies, and clinics that work with the entire spectrum of the homeless on a daily basis year-round, one-third of the homeless at any given time are children, and those typically female-headed households are almost exclusively in that situation due to economic factors having nothing to do with drugs or criminal activity.

          Of course that’s not the only thing wrong with your claim. A considerable number of people are homeless after experiencing a catastrophic illness or injury, veterans with traumatic brain injury and PTSD, people whose jobs don’t pay a living wage, the area’s extreme lack of housing on the lower end, etc. etc. It’s a lazy conclusion that the homeless are all just the highly visible minority who happen to fall into your line of vision.

    • Annelise Pierce Annelise Pierce says:

      Tim, if you think that working is harder than being homeless, I’d encourage you to spend more time with the homeless. I don’t think people are homeless because they have any delusion that it will be easier than having a job. If they were they’d change their minds quickly after a few weeks of life without reliable food, water, bathrooms, dry places to sleep or reasonable access to safety. It’s a tough life out there.

      • Avatar Tim says:

        I’m not talking about the homeless who are deserving of a hand up, I’m talking about the homeless who, in your (and AOC’s) words, “will not” work. Those unwilling to work deserve every negative consequence they have coming.

        • Annelise Pierce Annelise Pierce says:

          Tim, but why would someone choose the indignities and suffering of homelessness over working? As I replied elsewhere, it reminds me of the toddler who chooses screaming tantrums over asking, or poopy pants over using the toilet. It’s a decision that doesn’t make sense to most thoughtful autonomous adults. So why are they choosing it? In what ways can we as a society help them to become thoughtful and autonomous so they may begin to choose differently?

          • Avatar Tim says:

            There is a segment of the homeless population, particularly among men 15-35, that glorifies the “super tramp” lifestyle. To them, homelessness is not an indignity, it is freedom from responsibility and commitment. They are comtent as long as they can beg and steal enough to keep themselves fed and stoned.

  4. Avatar Doug Cook says:

    Let’s start first with identifying who the homeless is. The homeless should be sorted into groups; criminals, substance abusers, mentally ill, undocumented aliens, and all the rest. Every major city in California is spending tens of millions or more on programs for the homeless. San Francisco spends almost a billion dollars a year on the homeless, and there are more than ever in the city. What is happening is most of the money is being wasted. Why? Because there is a Homeless Industrial Complex that is getting filthy rich, wasting the money, while the homeless population swells. An example of wasteful spending can be found in the homeless shelter being built in Venice Beach, where a permanent population of over 1,000 homeless have taken over virtually every public venue, including the beach. To get these folks off the streets and off the beach, a 154 bed shelter has been approved by the Los Angeles City Council. It will be a “wet” shelter, meaning druggies and drunkards will be able to come and go as they please. The estimated cost for this shelter so far is $8 million, which equates to over $50,000 per bed. Why doesn’t anyone ask why? “temporary” construction of very large tents on three acres of land. Eight million dollars, to put up some large tents and plumb for bathrooms and a kitchen. As a “wet” shelter, it will become a hotel for freeloading partiers as much as a refuge for the truly needy. Not only is it only capable of housing a small fraction of the 1,000+ homeless already in Venice, it will attract more homeless people to relocate to Venice.
    Ms Pierce asks, “…that failure to provide adequate, clean and well-cared-for publicly available bathrooms in our downtown areas is at least in part responsible for the urination and defecation happening in public?” There were clean and well maintained bathrooms at the RABA station on Butte. After repeated vandalism, drug use abhorrent behavior in and around them, they were finally locked up and reserved for passenger use only. Like we all do…if you want something nice, you must take care of it. The only ones to blame for the lack of public restrooms, are the street people that trash them. With compassion, you must have discipline or you have anarchy.

    • Annelise Pierce Annelise Pierce says:

      “Let’s start first with identifying who the homeless is. The homeless should be sorted into groups; criminals, substance abusers, mentally ill, undocumented aliens, and all the rest.” You start by seemingly ignoring one of my central points which is that the criminalization of typical homeless behaviors (such as sleeping outside) creates criminals. Which then makes it super easy to separate the homeless into groups, or rather one group because now basically all of them are criminals.

      As far as discipline being the only antidote to anarchy: Expecting all homeless to behave like responsible adults is like expecting the majority of toddlers to do so. If your standards are ‘you can go to jail if you don’t want to learn to pee in the toilet’, you won’t get far with either population. Discipline for a toddler looks different than discipline for a 10 year old, or a teen, or a grown child. Some children are less developmentally capable of, say, washing the dishes, defecating in the appropriate locations, or making healthy food choices. The same holds true of individuals in society. Most of us don’t scream “without discipline you will have anarchy!” at the mom holding a tantruming 18 month old in Target because we recognize the role that the child’s age and development plays in their behavior. If we become aware that homelessness (like tantrums and using diapers) is actually a comparably difficult life choice which is full of indignity and often needless suffering, we become more likely to believe that this “choice” was not one that was thoughtfully and meaningfully made. Nor one that can easily be unmade. Which is why the rest of us have the responsibility to remain calm and seek appropriate, compassionate, reasonable solutions that honor human dignity and maintain some semblance of order.

      • Avatar Doug Cook says:

        Annelise, I don’t see anything wrong with attempting to identifying who the homeless are. Their different challenges mean different strategies to get them help. The heroin using street people are much different than the single mom who just lost her job and apartment, don’t you think? I am much more willing to provide help for her and her kids than a junkie breaking into my car and home. Not all homeless are criminals, but there are plenty of criminals that are homeless. I was approached by a homeless street person awhile ago trying to sell me packages of steaks. He had at least 10 packages with him. I said no thank you, but perhaps you should return it back to where you shoplifted it from.
        “…Expecting all homeless to behave like responsible adults is like expecting the majority of toddlers to do so.” Well, there is a difference between an adult and a toddler. If you want a clean place to pee…then don’t vandalize it, don’t have sex in the public bathroom, don’t shoot up drugs in that public bathroom. Is that such a difficult concept? You mean grown adults can’t figure that out? We have to treat them lioke toddlers?
        For years California voters have been nothing but compassionate towards the state’s homeless population, repeatedly voting to tax ourselves to provide more resources for affordable housing, mental health services, public transportation and addiction treatment facilities. In return, we’ve lost control of park space, rivers, public transit systems, our downtown , and even residential neighborhoods. And the problems we’ve been trying to solve are only getting worse. Advocates for the homeless have to understand that compassion is a two-way street. Their institutional lack of empathy, care or concern for the residents who are forced to suffer the consequences, as well as pay the bills, for their failed programs is appalling. If this is where “compassionate” policies have left us, maybe it’s time to try some ‘tough love’, instead.

      • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

        Exactly. And Annelise, your last sentence really says it all. We’re paying for homeless housing either way.

        • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

          (That “Exactly” was meant as a response to Annelise’s comment.)

          • Annelise Pierce Annelise Pierce says:

            Valerie: I feel that line is perhaps the most unifying aspect of the story. All of us want solutions that improve lives at low costs. Incarceration won’t be the low cost solution. Thanks for reading. 🙂

    • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

      Doug Cook,

      San Francisco successfully houses a tremendous number of people every year. However – being San Francisco – there is a steady influx of “new” homeless people, which off-sets the gains. In addition to having the most expensive (and rising) housing costs in the nation, SF still steadily attracts gay young people from all over the country who are looking for the acceptance they can’t find in their places of origin. Fully one-third of the homeless in SF are gay, with more arriving every day.

      Redding is not SF, or even Venice. There is nothing here to attract homeless people from outside the area. Heavily right-wing Redding has far fewer services and facilities for the homeless than other cities of at least comparable size, is loaded with anti-homeless laws, frequently has sub-freezing temperatures in the winter and life-threatening heat in the summer, and an extreme shortage of housing on the more affordable end. Providing some kind of minimal supportive housing for the homeless in Shasta County would save local taxpayers millions of dollars anually (as well as some number of lives).

      • Avatar Doug Cook says:

        “…Fully one-third of the homeless in SF are gay, with more arriving every day.”
        So what do you expect would happen if someone with no job prospects or money arrives to the most expensive city in the country to live in? Is that a responsible choice to make? So once again, people make poor life choices, and the tax payers are stuck paying for it. I would love to live in San Francisco…but I can’t afford it. There are plenty of less expensive places to live that are gay friendly. Why pick SF?

        • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

          Doug Cook,

          A gay teenager who has just been disowned by his family, abandoned by his church, and rejected/harassed/condemned by his friends, classmates, and school officials for coming out probably doesn’t think he would be better off – homeless and alone – in whatever backward place he came from than in the city that has the largest gay community in the country.

          And can you name some cities that are “gay friendly” where the rents aren’t exorbitant, and there are at least shelters and other programs for gay young people? Cities of any size where resources exist are plenty expensive.

          • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

            Gay friendly, try Phoenix, after San Francisco Phoenix has always had a vibrant gay population. It is Pride Month and celebrations are everywhere.
            And as the Village People say YMCA.

  5. Avatar Candace C says:

    R.V.’s statement “ Then again, we could just let them die” hits home for me. I often worry about homeless folks (elderly, mentally or physically ill) who don’t know enough or don’t have means to get out of the brutal Redding heat. We hear occasionally of homeless people found dead and alone that have been lying outdoors somewhere unnoticed. Folks say “ that’s so sad, how tragic” and then those same folks support more punitive actions towards the homeless. I suppose for some, dead or jailed, “out of sight, out of mind” problem solved. Human life has value, homeless or otherwise.

  6. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    The problem with the homeless is while taxpayers are willing to fund tax dollars to house the homeless and the poor those taxpayers want it done in someone else’s neighborhood. That is how all those crime ridden high rise tenement buildings were started, to house the poor.
    I see the face of the poor every Saturday morning and they are not rapists and druggies, they are families with small children, a lot of wheelchairs and walkers. A lot of elderly and every ethnic group is represented. I don’t expect any of you to come to Phoenix but a list of top forty food banks in America showed eight in California. Go volunteer and see the real face of poverty in America. And Redding may have a problem but it doesn’t have hundreds of legally accepted migrants waiting for relatives to pick them up. They have to be feed and cared for too.

  7. Avatar James Montgomery says:

    Statistics aside, these are my conclusions from living in downtown Redding for 15 years-
    A lot of the homeless are actual criminals- thieves, mostly, and violent criminals. They are dangerous, and really do constitute a menace to decent citizens. I’m sure glad I don’t live downtown, anymore! It gets tiring dealing with crime. Lock them up!
    A few of the homeless are simply unfortunate; bad breaks in life. Most of these find their way off the streets fairly quickly, if they are willing to work. There should always be work available for anyone who wants it, even if it means government as the employer of last resort.
    A lot of the homeless have mental health issues. They inspire compassion, but are really hard to help. Solutions are hard to come by, especially as many of them are really crazy, and some are very scary. Tough.
    A huge percentage have substance abuse issues, including many of the crazies. Feeding their habits thru handouts only enables them to continue, and get worse. I have come to believe this is the crux of the homeless problem- drinking and drugs. There is help available for those who want to quit, but how to encourage this is a question I have struggled with a lot. Most of us have to hit bottom before we seek recovery, so anything that keeps us from bottoming out is false help. I suspect that “low-barrier” services will prove to be just another way to help drunks and druggies avoid seeking recovery. I hope I am wrong about this.
    I have come to believe that when you support people on a long-term basis, without requiring anything from them in return, you impoverish society and degrade the people you are trying to help. Not everyone can hold down a job, but everyone can do something, at least clean up their own mess. Housing and food should be available for everyone, but it is a serious mistake to give it away for free.

    • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

      I give away free food every Saturday in Phoenix. But it is food donated by stores because it is past it’s best date. But if I didn’t give it away the stores would throw it away. Better to feed the homeless, poor and sickly than throw it in the garbage. Are there no food banks in Redding?

    • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

      James Montgomery,

      Are you the Director of Empire Recovery? And does it still not accept Medi-Cal for inpatient services? I imagine you see the worst of the worst, and deal exclusively with the substance-addicted element.

      • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

        In this area of very limited services, private insurance and/or a living-wage income is required for most of the help available, and the rest can be dependent upon enthusiastically embracing the organization’s religious dogma (which is the case in regard to Shasta County’s only homeless shelter – whether they admit it or not). A recovery which depends on believing that “god” can magically deliver them from their mental illness/substance addiction (often one and the same) doesn’t work for everyone, for obvious reasons.

        • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

          The organizations helping the homeless and the poor are churches, though not all force them to accept God as a choice to receive help. The Phoenix Rescue Mission, run by the same people that run Redding Rescue Mission, wants their recepients to take classes. The choice is simple, go hungry or accept God. It is no different than getting a driver’s license where they have to take a test or no driver’s license. Getting anything usually requires a sacrifice. Until somebody steps up to help this people other than churches that is the way it will be.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:


            I disagree. First of all, there are quite a few secular homeless facilities and services in other cities. There just aren’t any to speak of in Redding because NIMBYist members of the local power structure don’t want anything in the area beyond the over-crowded, grandfathered-in, hellfire-and-brimstone Rescue Mission. Considerable effort has been expended to keep more adequate (and better) facilities out.

            Secondly, knowing how to drive a car and knowing the rules of the road are an absolute necessity for both the driver’s safety and everyone else’s. Being forced to profess and accept someone else’s religion – basically as a condition of surviving – is not even remotely the same thing. Countless children have been abused over the years in these Rescue Mission-type places by being told that their parents will be tortured in the flames of “hell” for all eternity if they don’t mend their evil ways. In my opinion that should be a crime.

            It’s up to local government to allow, or actively work to bring in, adequate secular alternatives to those nightmare places.

          • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

            Patricia, Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the nation. Name one secular homeless shelter here.
            And I was using drivers license as an example that if one wants something they have to do the requirements.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:


            As we both know, Phoenix is the very Red capitol of a very Red State (where fundamentalist religion rules), and is basically a fairly high-priced right-wing retirement community. However, when I have more time later today I’ll definitely check into what’s available.

            And if you can’t see the difference between being required to study the driving manual and having your children (and yourself) abused day and night by religious fanatics as a condition of receiving life-saving help, then you obviously have no empathy for other human beings. No one has the right to force their religion on anyone else – no matter how delusional they may be.

          • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

            Patricia, Phoenix is actually more affordable than many Blue dominated cities. Sun City and Scottsdale are rich white areas. St. Marys warehouse is in Sun City because those raving white red staters are very giving. Something you would know if you lived here.
            And I have more empathy than you as I am not threatened by religion and help the needy. In order to help the needy I have to hold hands and stand in a prayer circle. A small sacrifice that I make, despite my non-religious standing, in order to help the needy. Something you constantly post you will not do as you deride anyone or organization that helps the needy if they don’t do it your way. Go volunteer and learn something.

          • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

            Patricia, on Facebook, Robert Balke in Redding, disagrees with your description of Redding and the GNRM.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:


            So you CHOOSE to stand in a prayer circle once in awhile for a couple of minutes. Will your children starve in the streets if you don’t allow yourself (and them) to be abused for hours on end, day in and day out, with hellfire-and-brimstone religious condemnation? We were talking about the area’s lack of secular atlernatives to the streets. Even if you were a client in need of its services, there’s quite a difference between an adult who may (or may not) be exposed to a short prayer when visiting a food bank once a month, and a family or individual who is forced to live 24-hours-a-day in a rabidly fundamentalist religious environment for what could be weeks at a time.

            Also, if you knew anything about me you would know that I’m no stranger to volunteer work, fund-raising, etc. on a major scale. Believe it or not there are many ways to help alleviate poverty and homelessness that don’t involve the antiquated religious organizations you seem so enamoured with.

            Finally, I pulled up a long list of transitional housing, shelters, and other homeless services in Phoenix. A good chunk of them are secular and government-funded, including the very interesting project I linked below. There are also a number of “halfway” and “sober” houses, where residents are required to pay $500.00 a month or so for a SHARED room, provide all their own food and other needs, and often pay a portion of the utilities. Those lucrative businesses are typically religiously affiliated.


          • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

            Patricia, funny you should list CASS as a secular group. It was just on AZFamily news tonight about one of the directors who used to be a former drug addict but due to the Church affiliated with CASS was saved and now saves others.
            How many children go hungry because of your religious hatred toward help programs?
            And all those for profit sobering centers, 200 in Prescott, were shut down for fraud related to the ACA. The Prescott Courior had a two year investigation of it.
            I cede this vortex of negativity to you because I can’t compete with one who makes mythical conspiracies, like GNRM keeps other help places away, and treats them as fact when they are just opinions.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            Below are the funding sources and associated organizations of the project I linked above:

            “Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority Bond Program, City of Phoenix HOME Funds, and ValueOptions (formerly ComCare) Stargate Housing Program”.

            The link below lists the leadership of CASS (heavy on legal professionals and educators). In what conceivable way could this be labeled a religious organization?

            And FYI – I operated a secular 7-day-a-week food bank for six years at one point, have volunteered at other food banks, and have raised tens of thousands of dollars in donations to support those efforts, so kindly don’t accuse me of wanting children to “go hungry”.


          • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

            Patricia, I see you ignored that on the Board of Directors is Sister Noreen Sharp retired Catholic Diocese of Phoenix. This, as I posted and you ignored, was on the news last night and was some of the church help CASS receives. Googling is not as informative as watching the news everyday.
            And I will not accuse you of letting children go hungry if you do not accuse me. Besides there is the old saying, What have you done lately? I feed children every Saturday now, what do you do now?
            Just because I left Cheyenne, for health reasons, I didn’t quit helping the needy. I just had to find a group where, with my physical limitations, I can still help. St. Marys Food Bank was it.
            You and I are polar opposites on how to help.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:


            Among the 6 people listed under CASS’s “Leadership”, NONE are credited with having any church affiliation or religious background.

            Among the 4 people in governing positions on its board of directors, NONE are credited with having any church affiliation or religious background.

            Of the 18 regular board members, 17 have no church or relgious affiliation or background listed. The single exception is #14 – a retired nun.

            How much more “secular” could this organization possibly be?

            In addition, CASS if far from being the only secular organization or government agency engaged in providing help to the poor, homeless, etc. in your area.

      • Avatar James Montgomery says:

        I am not the director of the ERC, but I am president of the board of directors.
        Medi-Cal is very complicated, more like 100 different programs, all with different rules. We gladly accept it for whatever services it will cover. At this point, that is only Outpatient treatment.
        There is a Medi-Cal waiver program in the works (coming at the pace of California) that should cover Detox and Residential. We are actively preparing for it and collaborating with the agencies that will be involved. We really hope this happens, as it will increase our ability to reach those in need of recovery. We also diligently work with people to work out ways to pay. There are more options than people realize. We are not-for-profit, but we do have to pay our bills.
        And yes, we do see the worst of the worst, but they are often the most receptive to recovery. Some of us were among them, actually.

    • Annelise Pierce Annelise Pierce says:

      James, I resonate with much of your commentary. And I share your concerns about low barrier sheltering becoming enabling to those avoiding rehab. I think it’s likely that DA Bridgett does too, from comments she has made elsewhere, and this may be the reason she is pushing for misdemeanor detention. Many communities offer the homeless the “carrot” of services but find that they need the “stick” of the threat of incarceration to help some individuals make any progress towards healing. If we can find a way to do this compassionately, it may be the right approach.

  8. Avatar Richard Christoph says:

    Annelise, thanks for your thought provoking article and for posing the following question:

    “After all, someone becomes a criminal the moment we prosecute them for:

    Illegal camping
    Drinking alcohol in public
    Urinating in a public place”

    In California, those acts are treated much like speeding or running a stop sign. They are clearly violations of the law, but not considered criminal acts.

    “Criminal behavior, or offending, is generally defined as any overt or covert law-breaking conduct in a given country or state, punishable upon conviction. The two main broad categories are property crimes (e.g., fraud, theft) and violent crimes (e.g., domestic violence, robbery, homicide, and sex crimes).”

    Whether a person committing a crime as defined above is sheltered or unsheltered, the perpetrator must be held accountable.

    • Annelise Pierce Annelise Pierce says:

      Actually under the new Chronic Offender Accountability Program in Shasta County, acts such as those above have quite recently been used to incarcerate individuals for at least a year. The misdemeanor detention facility being pushed by Mike Johnson, Anderson Chief of Police, is to be used for incarcerating individual for just these types of crimes, to my understanding. Thus the use of the term “criminalizing homelessness.”

      • Avatar Doug Cook says:

        Annelise, The Chronic Offender Accountability Program so far has incarcerated criminals that should be kept in jail. As far as I can see, the homeless have not been targeted with this program. The Sheriff’s Office singled out Michael Chandler as a chronic offender and added him to the county’s Chronic Offender Accountability Program. Chandler pleaded guilty Friday to four pending felony cases of auto theft, possession of two stolen vehicles and possession of methamphetamine for the purpose of sales..yes, I want this guy off the streets. Another offender, Robert Parenteau was sentenced to six years in state prison after leading police on two different high-speed chases, in stolen vehicles, in 2018. Again, another criminal that I’m glad is off the streets.
        There have been no homeless added to the chronic offender list that I can see.

        • Annelise Pierce Annelise Pierce says:

          Perhaps the COAP overlooked conveniently grouping the homeless under a label so you could better identify them. 😉 Smerber, Yamamura, Whitley, Swink, Howser, Miller are all examples of the kinds of criminal activities mentioned above based on their offenses as listed on their COAP sheets.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            Jeff Patrick Smerber 89 calls:
            Disorderly conduct
            obstructing peace officer
            alcohol in park

            Trista Lace Yamamura
            disorderly conduct
            obstructing justice

            Andrew Scott Whitley
            petty theft

            Anthony William Swink 190 calls
            Brandishing deadly weapon
            violation of probation
            petty theft
            Trespassing/driving on private property

            David Lee Howser 57 calls
            resisting arrest
            maintaining a drug house

            Sandra Louise Miller 54 calls
            disturbing the peace
            Failure to appear

          • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

            Tim, I don’t have it but I’m sure you do. Didn’t California reclassify some drug crimes, over law enforcement objections, to a lower degree. Those convicted of the crimes as part of probation had to take drug classes. After reclassifying those convicted no longer have to take the drug glasses, it is optional now and they aren’t forced to show up and don’t. Do I remember wrong?

  9. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Excellent article Annelise. If I were in charge of this disaster, I would triage a couple groups back into housing as soon as possible or give them the information about local help to keep them housed after a life event affects their ablitiy to cover rent and utilities: families with children and elders. There are agencies that will assist playing rent and utilities and prevent evictions. At least that’s what I’ve seen on the internet. Even after a lot of reading I’m not sure how someone is supposed to secure this help, but if all of this exists, it needs to be shared with people in a timely, clear and understandable way.

  10. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    I see you put “Navigation Center” and “low barrier” in quotes. Who comes up with these inane titles? When I first heard the term navigation center on the news, I thought it was some new GPS device.

    • Annelise Pierce Annelise Pierce says:

      Ha! My favorite is the combo shelter/detention center which has been titled “The Life Center”. Inappropriate euphemisms abound.

  11. Avatar Richard Christoph says:

    Breaking News :

    “San Francisco may force treatment on mentally ill drug users”

    Janie Har, Associated Press Published 1:59 p.m. PT June 4, 2019

  12. Avatar nick says:

    Monday night (5-6-19) at the Patriots meeting, every Monday night at 6 PM at 2570 South Bonnyview Rd., I did a survey consisting of 3 questions. Would you support a county 1 cent sales tax, estimated to raise $30 million or more per year, that was earmarked solely for building a jail, it’s staffing and maintenance? Would you support a 1 cent sales tax earmarked for public safety? Would you support a sales tax for the general fund?

    A 1 cent sales tax earmarked for a jail would need a 2/3 majority to pass but the funds could only be used for what is specified in the tax on the ballot, in this case a jail. A new 500 inmate jail would allow us to lock up offenders upon arrest and for the duration of their sentence. A misdemeanor in Cal. Is punishable by up to 364 days in the county jail. This way we could hold offenders accountable for every offense at the time of their arrest instead of the current revolving door. Presently when a person is arrested and booked another inmate has to be released because of overcrowding. Criminals are not concerned about spending too much time in the slammer but if we could lock them up for 6 months or a year it might make them think a little harder about their lifestyle and it would probably convince our out of the area criminals to return home. If we limited the new 500 bed jail to misdemeanor offenders and use the old jail for felons we could arraign them on site as Chief Mike Johnson has suggested for “The Life Center” and save court space .Maybe after being locked up for 6 months they might want to have a conversation about their lifestyle and how to change it to fit in with society a little better. Perhaps some programs from the proposed “Life Center” could be incorporated in the new jail to help the inmates rejoin society but if not, that’s their choice, we have room to keep locking them up and not being a threat to our safety.

    A 1 cent sales tax for safety, again would need a 2/3 majority to pass and could be used for anything safety related, Sheriff, Fire or anything else our County Supervisors decided was safety related. And there’s the rub, how our Supervisors interpret safety related. Certainly the Sheriff’s department and Fire is safety related but is a Navigation Center, The Place, safety related? How about 5 new Sheriff’s Jet Boats for Shasta Lake? How about some new snowmobiles for Search and Rescue? Is Rehab or educational trade schools or educational programs the teach inmates to read and write safety related? Maybe if we sent our offenders on a vacation to Hawaii or Las Vegas every 6 months they would feel better about themselves and not commit as many crimes. That could be safety related, maybe, in our some peoples opinion. Do you trust our local elected leaders to make wise decisions for us? Does resent history tell us they will?

    A sales tax for the general fund would only need a majority to pass, 50% plus one vote, and could be used for anything our Supervisors or City Council, if it was a city tax, deemed fit. By the way, a city tax will not pay for jail funding, a navigation center or help support the District Attorney’s office as Julie Winters claimed, those are county responsibilities. The county will pay $465 million over the next 25 years(2017 figures, Ca. Actuary Report-CALPERS) and the City of Redding $597 million (2017) over the next 30 years to clear their unfunded pension liabilites. This gets paid before anything else so if there’s a downturn in the market these payments can only go up and there goes our money from the sales tax increase. You’ve only got to think back to decisions made over past years to decide if that’s the avenue we want to take.

    To the survey, ¾ of the room, 125 people or so, raised their hand in support of a 1 cent sales tax earmarked for a jail only. One hand was raised in support of a safety tax and NO hands were raised in support of a 1 cent tax for the general fund.

    Please note, This survey is geared toward controlling lawbreakers, not the homeless nor the mentally ill, although for the criminally mentally ill lawbreakers, maybe they should have their own floor at the new jail that will be tailored to put them in the safest environment possible. Possessing a shopping cart from a store is against the law as is using our greenbelts as a latrine or leaving an environmental wasteland at one’s campsite. These crimes need to be enforced along with property and physical assault crimes. I would be happy to address any “Rotaries, Soccer Moms or business leaders” to explain my/our position. Cal 221-2433

    Contact our County Supervisors at “” to let them know you support a 1 cent “jail only” tax or call them at 225-5550.

    Sometimes I get the feeling that the people in power don’t want to solve the homeless/vagrant/criminal problems that infest our neighborhoods, that must be so frustrating to our law enforcement professionals.

    Nick Gardner