FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 2, 2013 —
By Steve Marschke
Councilman Mark Johannessen plans to lobby the West Sacramento city council next month to include a “homeless” policy among the city’s priorities for 2013.
Johannessen has been chairman of an informal group of “stakeholders” discussing the issue of homelessness in the city.
“We’ve had people from the Veterans Administration in the group, homeowners and property owners, business stakeholders, a police rep and a city rep in the group over the last year and a half,” he told the News-Ledger. “It’s basically an email list anybody can join.”
The committee has been trying to decide what, exactly, it wants out of a city policy on homelessness.
“What’s happened over the last year is that we’ve created an inventory of homeless resources, and also a wish list of all the stakeholders,” said Johannessen. “Does (the policy) mean cleaning up neighborhoods, or does it mean feeding the homeless?”
There is no cold weather shelter in West Sacramento right now. There is a motel room voucher program funded through a grant obtained by the Broderick Christian Center – but last winter, there wasn’t even that.
“I think a shelter is an attribute people want to see,” he said. “Broderick Christian Center is doing a day shelter, but there is no night shelter in West Sacramento. There are no beds except for the (motel) voucher program. I definitely think a shelter is a discussion we need to have.”
Johannessen said the last count put the number of homeless in city limits around 138 – and they are homeless for varying reasons. Most are men.
“There are chronic homeless – those are the people likely to have some mental health issue or drug or alcohol issue. Then you have people who lose their jobs or their homes, and they’re sleeping in their cars, but they’re capable of getting a job and getting back on their feet. Some people won’t tell you why they’re homeless, but there are obviously some issues with them. It could be they haven’t been to the dentist and don’t have any teeth – how are you going to get a job without any teeth?”
Johannessen said a big part of the new policy could be just creating a central clearinghouse for homeless services.
“In my view, one of the biggest problems right now is that we have all kinds of people doing all kinds of things – such as Helena Helmold (East Yolo Information Center for Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse) doing alcohol and drug issues. She may or may not be in touch with Broderick Christian Center which may or may not be in touch with St. Vincent De Paul. One of the things that may come from this (committee) is some centralized process, so if you have a homeless issue, there’s one place to go.”
Meanwhile, the City of West Sacramento is looking for a consultant to help draft a homeless policy.
West Sacramento worked with other Yolo County governments in 2008 on a ten-year plan on homelessness – but funding was cut, reports Louise Collis of the City of West Sacramento.
“What we’re trying to do is find a way at least in West Sacramento for us to move forward (on limited means),” said Collis.
This city’s homeless problem may be different in some ways from the problem faced in western Yolo County.
“We’re right across the river from Sacramento, and that’s a different situation form Esparto or Woodland or someplace rural,” said Collis.
The West Sacramento City Council will hold its annual strategic plan meeting – and possibly listen to a pitch from Johannessen about homelessness – in early 2013.
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