The San Joaquin County Grand Jury believes government agencies need to better address homeless issues.
To do so they are recommending:
uSan Joaquin County Board of Supervisors appoint a homeless czar to oversee all matters relating to homelessness and report directly to the County Administrator. The person needs to have the authority and resources to bring together departments to develop and implement the county’s strategic plan on homelessness.
uCreate a standing committee or joint powers authority to coordinate efforts to addresses homeless among the county, cities as well as all public and private agencies that serve the homeless in San Joaquin County. This would allow for coordination of decision making, expansion of outreach efforts, and create partnerships. It would also avoid needless duplication and wasting limited resources.
uEmploy Lodi’s approach to address homeless issues as a framework for a countywide effort.
uEstablish a single phone number for all things related to citizens’ concerns regarding the homeless. The Grand Jury report notes currently citizens do not know which agency to call to address problems with the homeless. It may be the county, a city, Caltrans, law enforcement, or mental health, a designate point of contact would know which agency has jurisdiction. Such an approach may reduce costs and response time.
uConduct a public service campaign to educate the public about homeless including strategies to handle trespassers and panhandlers.
uEstablish a detox center instead of having intoxicated homeless picked up by law enforcement.
The Grand Jury noted there is no strategic plan in place to either prevent homelessness or to get those who are homeless off the streets.
The report noted “the multitude of well-meaning efforts both public and private, lacks consistent, effective communication and coordination. No doubt resources to address this issue are limited. To have an effective impact on reducing homelessness efforts need to be better coordinated, with greater communication and collaboration.”
The Grand Jury notes that being homeless per se isn’t a crime, the “unfortunate byproduct” can be criminal behaviors such as drunkenness and drug use in public. It also includes unavoidable crimes such as loitering, trespassing, panhandling, defecation, and public urination that are a virtual given if one is homeless.
The report notes the impacts of such quality of life crimes can’t be emphasized enough as it:
ucreates sanitary band health issues.
ureduces property values.
uhurts economic vitality.
ucan set the stage for more criminal activity.
The report noted between 2010 and today the number of available beds throughout San Joaquin County for the homeless has:
udropped 69 percent in emergency centers going from 1,669 to 519.
uincreased 22 percent in transitional housing going from 663 to 806.
uincreased 151 percent in permanent support housing going from 339 to 852.
Overall, though, the number of beds committed to the homeless has dropped 19 percent during the past seven years going from 2,701 to 2,177.
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