Don’t give a handout to the homeless on the street.
That’s going to be the message of a new group made up of city representatives, social service providers, business organizations and faith-based groups beginning to tackle the problem of homelessness and increased panhandling in Davis, according to a city staff report.
Why not give on the street? Because that’s money that could have been given to a program that helps the homeless in ways a street handout could never do and it will be “… deterring individuals (from) coming to Davis for ‘easy money’ from generous and well-meaning citizens,” according to the report.
Davis Police Lt. Paul Doroshov pointed out that there is a subset of the homeless community that police deal with.
“Some of these folks have such serious issues with chemicals or mental health issues that’s where they are, (they are homeless),” he said.
The report cites numbers, according to the Davis homeless census completed every two years, that Davis has a historical population of 116-125 people who are homeless.
“Local and countywide emergency beds and transitional housing are typically able to house the majority of families and individuals who are actively seeking housing and a transition out of homelessness,” the report said.
Yet in recent months there’s been cause for concern. There seems to be a jump in panhandling and visibility of the homeless or people who simply appear to be homeless — and aggressive panhandling with it. That’s the basis for what the city is calling the stakeholder group to form and begin to figure out its next steps.
Doroshov said police are hesitant to place a time frame on an increase in homelessness.
“We’ve had an increase in complaints in those areas and issues,” he said, adding there were anecdotal reports of an increase from people who worked with homeless populations. “Maybe we’re noticing it in the last few months, but maybe it’s been coming along for a longer period of time.”
A large part of the stakeholder group’s efforts will be to try to redirect money given to the homeless to local nonprofits and faith-based organizations who provide food, shelter, healthcare, detox, addiction programs and mental health services to the homeless.
Police also responded to increased calls about homeless camps in recent months, especially in previously vacant parcels of land that are now being developed, and the start of summer recreation programs, when program staff find homeless camped out in local parks, Doroshov said.
Police updated their camp cleanup noticing and clearing-out procedures to conform to new state laws, the report said.
“The Police Department has also assigned specific police officers the task of camp clean-ups, contact with individuals who are homeless and/or panhandling, and other related community policing efforts related to this population,” the report said. “In doing this, officers know the individuals, issues and protocol for response. Officers also gain information from individuals, like confirmation of the reputation Davis has as a generous community that gives to panhandlers.”
The city also is enforcing curfews at local parks to prevent camping. It could do more on the whole, but not without new or redirected city monies.
For now, the stakeholder group is focusing on redirecting money that would be given to homeless on the street to local service providers. Police staff will support the efforts, the report said, and a new Crisis Intervention Project due to be created by Yolo County Health in three major cities in the county to deal with the homeless in the next couple months.
— Reach Dave Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews.