Mike Kelly is a wise man.
The Manteca Police booking officer has been the city’s de facto “lead” man for a while when it comes to the frontline serving as a liaison of sorts with the homeless.
Over a year ago I was within earshot of Kelly who was dealing with two homeless individuals who had worn out their welcome as uninvited guests on private property along Moffat Boulevard.
They said they had no place to go. Kelly asked what each one was receiving each month in the form of money. One said he had a $1,100 a month disability check while the other — who was older — had fairly limited Social Security of just under $1,000.
I remember his response to those two tidbits of information, “There’s your answer. Get a third person (with income) and you’ll be set.”
He went on to tell them they could pool their resources to rent a place in Manteca or Stockton. He did note it would take them making the right connections and compromising a bit. The tradeoff was sharing living space under a roof with somebody or rolling your dice each night to find shelter on the streets.
Granted, the answer to the growing homeless issues isn’t that simple. But — given the situation that most who are homeless find themselves in — coming together to get off the streets can be a viable solution.
It is also an approach that can have long-term positive impacts when employed sooner.
That’s because Jeff Zellner is right.
The Manteca City Council hopeful noted the most effective way — in terms of both costs and results — to tackle homeless issues is prevention.
And given the storm clouds on the horizon of increasing costs for basics against an overall wage stagnation for much of the 209 region that will see rental prices continue to climb thanks to record-high housing costs in the Bay Area, the problem is going to get worse.
This is not about drug and alcohol abuse or people with health issues. There are prevention efforts already in place that have limited effectiveness because the people lumped under those categories have a tendency to deny they need help.
It is about those that are on the streets — or are sliding closer to it — that aren’t anti-social. They really do constitute the vast majority of the homeless or the homeless-to-be and not the in-your-face homeless abusers who operate from the premise their rights are absolutely superior to the rights of anyone else.
Manteca’s elected leaders have made a wise choice in directing that Manteca Police hire two community resource officers to address homeless concerns. But law enforcement and helping steer those that want help to the right resources to the point of even driving them there is just a piece of the puzzle.
One wouldn’t embark on a long-term endeavor to reduce crime and gang influences without working to reduce the cause of either.
It is why we have crime prevention strategies in place. It was one of the original reasons behind the modern parks and recreation movement.
Homeless prevention is a different animal. What shape it takes is determined by how far you want to go. But it could arguably be as simple as having a clearing house to connect people or a go-to place where people can get advice and pointed into the right direction of resources. To be honest, it would seem the greatest good could be done by building on the Ride Share model.
It is essentially a mechanism to bring workers together to share the cost of commuting. While ride sharing does reduce stress, the No. 1 reason why people are driven to it is the cost of commuting. If you can find a commute partner that you can feel comfortable with up to four hours a day driving back and forth to San Jose and cut your commute tab in half, it is a win-win-win. It reduces financial stress on the commuters and their families, it reduces general stress, and it reduces congestion and air pollution.
I can walk around my neighborhood and easily count off a dozen instances of where people share their homes not just with other generations of their own family but people who at one point were strangers. Yes, you will find maybe three or four guys in their early to mid-20s combining together for a house to rent but it is more likely to be one individual that may have a minor child or two “sharing” a home with an owner or renter that is struggling to stay above water themselves.
If there was a clearing house of sorts that did background checks on both sides of the equation and worked to have those with shelter and those needed it to see if they have enough common ground to live under the same roof or even two people who are headed to the streets unless their living situation changes, it will have a positive impact.
That to a degree is already happening. But rarely do complete strangers fall into such arrangements.
Why elected leaders need to consider making such an endeavor a reality by ideally funding a non-profit to do the work such as HOPE Family Shelters, is simple. This is a solution that goes beyond addressing homeless concerns. It addresses the bigger issue of affordable housing.
The days of Ozzie and Harriet are gone. They are not coming back.
We need practical solutions to affordable housing and the homeless that aren’t the estimated 25 percent that cause 99 percent of the issues that require police attention. Solutions need to work for the realities of 2016 and being within the housing tide pool that the Bay Area can send ripples capable of capsizing people struggling to stay afloat and off the streets.