‘Letters to the Editor’ from the News-Ledger edition of January 9, 2013 –
Why not Mark?
In the December 12, 2012 edition of the News-Ledger the front-page article regarding the appointment of Chris Ledesma as the next vice mayor was troubling. I don’t have anything against Chris, but I was troubled by the politics behind his selection. Mark Johannessen has been on the council much longer, but he has always been passed over in this position. Why does this happen?
EDITOR’S NOTE: At the city council meeting of December 5, Councilman Bill Kristoff nominated Mark Johannessen to be the next “mayor pro tem,” or vice mayor.
No one seconded that motion. Councilman Oscar Villegas then nominated Chris Ledesma, who was unanimously elected.
Johannessen is in his second term on the council and has not yet served as mayor pro tem. He declined detailed comments to the News-Ledger, saying the vote was “no big deal.”
Almost everyday I see the same woman at the Safeway Shopping Center. She has the same filthy clothes on with the same filthy jacket and matted hair. She has several small bags she carries in a basket all the time. To see her still homeless is a shame on us and our community. I have given her money and said hello, but its hard to tell how much of her is really still there. She has been outside in all temperatures for over a year.
I know this because I have seen her for so long. She sometimes looks at me with these eyes that still speak and seem to be saying “Help.”
I know she has been to the Yolo County Human Services office on Jefferson because I’ve seen her there. I even over-heard a conversation she was having on the phone at the One Spot Career Center inside their lobby, (they let you use the phones free there),. Its supposed to be to find a job thou. I heard her saying, “I’m trying to get back into a board and care. I am staying at a motel and I don’t feel safe”. That was over a year ago.
“This woman needs help. She is always at the Safeway shopping center. She is homeless, mentally ill, elderly, filthy and with matted hair. She was trying to get into a board and over a year ago. This I know because of a conversation I over-heard at the Health and Human Services office. She was using the phone at the One-Stop Career Center. She has been seen by social services and law enforcement alike and she still remains in desperate need. If you go over there in the morning between Big Lots and Rite-Aid or in front of Safeway you will see her. Please, Mayor Cabaldon, use the powers within your office to help this woman and the other mentally ill and homeless souls in our community.”
I don’t know if anything will be done, but its a sad day when sick people can’t get the help they are asking for and so desperately needs. West Sacramento is a Mecca for the homeless, addict, mentally ill and just down and out. Maybe its our cheap motels and easy access to the river. One might say just move, but I’ve bought a home here and I like West Sac, but for your everyday person, who cares about these people, its become a depressing place to live.
We have to do something for the homeless. Provide a day shelter, and get the mentally ill help. We need a detox center for the addict. Its just getting increasingly like a set from a zombie movie here, with us just living, shopping and acting as if the “living dead” among us, already are.
The homeless challenge
Thank you for reporting on the issue of homelessness in West Sacramento and Councilman Mark Johannessen’s ongoing efforts to address the issue and its impact on our community (News-Ledger, Jan. 2).
St. Vincent de Paul, Our Lady of Grace Conference is among the many faith-based groups in West Sacramento who are concerned about how our city and county address the needs of the poor in our community, especially the homeless. I appreciate Councilman Johannessen’s efforts to push for the development of city policy concerning the poor and unsheltered.
In developing policy in this area, it is important to view the challenges of overcoming poverty and homelessness from the perspective of building a community in West Sacramento that is inclusive of all of its residents. This perspective begins, I think, with the understanding that the “homeless” are not a problem, but real people, including families with children, facing tough challenges in tough times. For example, over the last year, we saw our requests for need increase by 175%.
Every situation is unique and personal to the people affected by poverty. In developing a policy, the city should include poor and homeless individuals in the planning process. I have met such persons through the charitable work of St. Vincent de Paul. They have much to offer for workable solutions because they are living the experience of poverty in our community.
The development of policy should be open and transparent. There needs to be ample notice of public meetings, and meetings need to be set at reasonable times and places so there can be full participation by all stakeholders. Mr. Johannessen has taken this approach and the city council should follow his lead to have all voices heard. It is also critical that policy be developed with better facts concerning the depth of poverty in our community. The reported count of only 138 homeless people within city limits does not square with the reality of what we find in our work with the poor.
It is important, too, that policy not look to just one solution but acknowledge the scope of the challenges of being homeless and build upon multiple solutions to address the varying need. The policy should address systemic change where needed, such as, access to resources through coordinated communication. We have seen such positive changes in the formation of West Sac Partners, the establishment of 211 telephone assistance, and the work of the Broderick Bryte Community Action Network.
Our Lady of Grace Conference remains hopeful that city leaders will be open to addressing the issue of homelessness as a real and pressing challenge for our community and will work with stakeholders for a policy that is humane, decent, and worthy of the City of West Sacramento.
Our Lady of Grace Conference
Society of St. Vincent de Paul
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