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Jul 23rd
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Offering Solutions

tbsc1SANTA CRUZ > City councilmembers and Homeless Services director announces reform proposals

More than a week has passed since the death of Santa Cruz resident and business owner Shannon Collins, who was stabbed to death by a stranger around noon on Monday, May 7. The suspect is a transient from San Francisco with an extensive history of violent crime. Collins' death spurred a widespread and heated community dialogue about public safety, homelessness, city policies, and more. Today, Wednesday, May 16, three Santa Cruz city councilmembers and the head of the the Homeless Services Center responded by announcing eight proposals for how the city can reform its handling of these issues.

The councilmembers—Vice Mayor Hilary Bryant and councilmembers Ryan Coonerty and Lynn Robinson—explained the proposals in a press release, stating, "We believe these proposals to be common-sense and easily implemented.  They reflect the conversations we have had with police, social service providers, and concerned citizens. None of these proposals in and of themselves would have stopped [suspect] Charles Edwards, but if adopted, these approaches will bring more accountability and targeted resources to the challenges facing our community.”

Monica Martinez, director of the Homeless Services Center, said, “The Homeless Services Center is entirely dedicated to the strategy of reducing the number of homeless people in Santa Cruz County and reducing the cost of homelessness on emergency services and public safety. The Homeless Services Center leadership and Board of Directors are eager to partner with the City of Santa Cruz to accelerate our work towards that goal."

Direct from the May 16 press release, here are the group's eight proposals:
(1) This year and future year's budget allocation to homeless services will require implementation of (a) an identification system (b) a registry protocol currently used in Santa Cruz motels to give police and service providers a better sense of who is using the facility, and (c) rules that prioritize services for residents of Santa Cruz County over people from outside the area—with an exception for the winter emergency shelter and victims of domestic violence who are in imminent danger. We believe that we need to meet the needs of citizens in our community first and foremost. 
(2) We propose that the city designate a police officer to meet regularly with the Homeless Services Center staff to identify homeless individuals who are engaging in criminal behavior and coordinate actions. 
(3) We, as councilmembers, will not support any new homeless service facilities in the City of Santa Cruz. We believe that other jurisdictions in Santa Cruz County need to share equally in the costs and location of social services.
(4) We, as councilmembers, will work with property owners of public housing to screen current and prospective tenants for serious criminal history.
(5) We are partnering with the county to continue and expand funding for mental health outreach workers.
(6) The city and the Homeless Services Center will expand the "Homeward Bound" program using San Francisco’s successful model to provide more bus tickets to homeless individuals to return to communities where they have a support system. 
(7) We are requesting that the County Jail return their prisoners to their community of origin upon completion of their sentence.
(8) Finally, we will ask the judicial system to provide a monthly list of offenders who have failed to appear in court, so that the City Attorney can prosecute them under the city’s repeat offender law.

These proposals will be approached in a variety of ways, Coonerty tells Good Times. Some, such as funds for identification, mental health services, and the Homeward Bound program, will go to the city council for approval. Others, likes the restriction on public housing, will "be pursued individually." Other proposals will be carried out by the Homeless Services Center.

This news brief is a breaking news report. Stay tuned for more coverage on this and related news.

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