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Spinning our Wheels

news1Can the debate over homeless services come to terms with the need for drug and alcohol treatment? 

Over the last few months, sharp disagreement on what needs to done about crime and homelessness has polarized the city council, homeless service advocates and neighborhood safety groups, not to mention the larger community.

With total arrests for all types of crime up more than 50 percent between 2011 and 2012, and with 42 percent of offenders booked in county jail being homeless, transients, or having given the address of the Homeless Services Center (HSC) as their residence, Santa Cruz Deputy Chief of Police Rick Martinez says the city is at a critical “tipping point” in addressing drug addiction and homelessness.

With budget season coming up for the city, Vice Mayor Lynn Robinson has called for close scrutiny of some city-funded homeless services she claims are enabling and facilitating the dangerous and dysfunctional behavior that she and others find so obnoxious around town, but particularly around the HSC. Robinson claims some of these services, particularly the Day Use Services, show little evidence of reducing homelessness.

While much of the discussion about these issues has been inflamed by sometimes nasty accusations and inaccurate stereotypes posted by all sides of the debate on online news articles and all over social media, these issues were discussed with surprising civility at the city council’s Tuesday, April 30 “Study Session on Homelessness,” where most testimony supported continued funding of homeless services.

In terms of efficient use of resources, the need to focus on drug addicts and chronic inebriates is supported by the data. The staff report for the city council’s study session included the striking statistic that only 325 individuals accounted for 62 percent of the 2,044 arrested who reported they were homeless, transient, or gave the HSC as their address in 2012. That means 325 homeless individuals, representing just under 12 percent of the known homeless population, were arrested 1,259 times in 2012. According to the staff report, “That equates to 3.9 arrests annually for each of these 325 people … [a] smaller pool of individuals are incurring a staggering number of arrests and consuming an inordinate amount of public safety resources.”

According to several spokespersons supporting continued funding of homeless services, common ground may be found with those enraged about crime and a degrading of public spaces attributed to the homeless with proven, evidence-based programs targeted at the chronically homeless, drug addicts and chronic inebriates. These include a “housing first” program, with support services, aimed at 180 of the most vulnerable, most needy and most expensive of the chronically homeless, according Phil Kramer, project director of the 180/180 Campaign.

The campaign, launched in Santa Cruz last spring, is based on evidence from other cities that show that a very small percentage of the homeless, particularly chronic inebriates and the mentally ill, are responsible for most of the public cost of emergency services for the homeless, accrued by police calls, ambulance services, emergency room hospital treatment, and jail.

news1-2For repeat drug offenders, Martinez is a strong supporter of additional and more effective drug treatment programs, including a lock-down facility designed to treat drug addicts and additional court-ordered drug and alcohol treatment programs.

“Nothing we’ve put out there is breaking the cycle of drug addiction,” Martinez says. And with state-ordered realignment (AB 109) mandating reduced jail time and increased probation for non-serious, drug-related offenses, Martinez says the result is often “a revolving door without consequences.” 

Because drug treatment programs are so heavily overbooked, Martinez says there is “nowhere for them to go,” if and when an addict gets serious about getting clean. 

Rev. Steve DeFields-Gambrel, pastor of The Circle Church, on the Westside, moderated the April 24 “Homelessness and Our Hometown” forum at Santa Cruz High School, which he opened with his own story of trying with more than 50 phone calls to find a place for a homeless alcoholic to detox and get services. He said that he was finally advised by an unnamed service provider to seek help for this person outside of Santa Cruz County. 

“For all the myths that we have so many services for the homeless in Santa Cruz,” Pastor Steve, as he’s known, told the forum’s audience of about 250 attendees, “try to get someone into one, and watch the bureaucracy rise up against you.”

Pastor Steve believes that homelessness, in and of itself, is not a driver of violent crime. “Addiction, whether you live in a house or not, is a major source of violent crime,” he says.  

Following the April 15 closure of the winter emergency shelter at the Armory, there are approximately 300 emergency shelter beds available in the county, serving only about 10 percent of the 2,771 homeless persons counted in the most recent “Point-in-Time Homeless Census and Survey,” completed in 2011. Based on service delivery data, it is estimated that upward of 80 percent of the homeless do not access any publicly funded services at all, casting doubt on one of the popular local theories that Santa Cruz’s homeless services act as a draw for homeless persons from other areas.    

But, says Analicia Cube, co-founder of Take Back Santa Cruz (TBSC), Santa Cruz is a “magnet for people to come here and commit crimes.” According to Cube, the message Santa Cruz has sent out around the state has been “if you want cheap, black tar heroin, come to Santa Cruz. And addicts travel here, sometimes hundreds of miles, to get their drugs, and they keep coming and going until they often got stuck here, and then they stay.”

Cube says our message should be that, “We’re a loving, eclectic, open-minded community, but as a community, we will not tolerate or enable criminal activity. People have had it.” 

“Everybody in this town deserves a level of safety,” Cube adds, “including homeless people on the street who are preyed upon by criminals.”

She believes TBSC has been mischaracterized as “anti-homeless,” when the real mission of the diverse, grassroots organization is reducing crime.

“I’ve said over and over, it’s about the criminals that hide under the umbrella of homelessness, and making this distinction is critical,” Cube says.  

Referring to the non residential Day Use Programs at the HSC and the long-term homelessness of many of the people who use these programs, Robinson wonders at what point the city can admit that some programs are not working to move people out of homelessness, and that it has been consequentially “enabling” a dependence on those services.

“We need to have that conversation,” Robinson says. “Is it two years, five years, a decade? At what point do you say the system is not working … that the status quo is not delivering the desired outcomes, but supporting a comfort zone that for some goes on indefinitely?”

Councilmember Don Lane, however, worries that effective programs could be harmed in this process.

“I’m not a defender of the status quo,” says  Lane, “but I get nervous when people take the ‘pull the rug out from under the entire operation’ approach. Yes, there are flaws and inefficient use of resources, [but they go] right along with very effective programs that are working, like our family shelter.”   

While Lane says he has supported the “tough love” policies of the city over the last several years (meaning homeless camp eradications, enforcement of the sleeping ban and holding people accountable, which has drawn fire from many homeless advocates), he questions where the ”love” part of that policy is—which he says would be programs that will provide real pathways out of homelessness. Lane advocates for evidenced-based, “smart solutions” that have proven to work in other cities to reduce homelessness, such as the 180/180 Campaign.

“The only thing worse than not solving a problem is addressing the wrong problem—that can often make the real problem worse,” says Claudia Brown, board chair of the HSC. “If we can begin with fact-based definition of the problem, and couple that with tested, evidence-based solutions, then we might make some progress. If we don’t start with facts, and don’t borrow from the proven experience of others, then we’re just spinning our wheels.”

Comments (16)Add Comment
Then help
written by loca65, August 05, 2013
How we can be so progressive and so archaic when it comes to homelessness and prevention? How many arrests begin because a person is publicly trying to rest? The no-sleeping ban has to go.

No home-no shelter-no protection. The homeless become pray to police, thieves, and bad situations. Landlords must rent to families and individuals with section 8 to be pro active in solution.

Accepting section 8 can save a family from sleeping in their cars--and, the landlord benefits with steady income.
Some more information
written by Don Honda, May 25, 2013
I never said "concerned for their jobs." That is your implication. I said that they were there in force because they depend on this funding for their salaries. There is a difference. Also, those associated with the 180/180 project has always said that these "supportive" services are merely offered, that it not required as part of getting free housing. This is also a fine distinction.

Over $110 Million is spent on the social services in Santa Cruz county. Is it being used efficiently?:

http://blog.ethanbearman.com/santa-cruz-county-california-social-services-spending/

Check your Facts
written by Marcus Kelly-Cobos, May 22, 2013
The 180/180 does have requirements such as the ones that you say are excluded. Besides many of the social Service Providers that you talked about "being concerned for their jobs" are only in the field because they actually care. Many of them could havew better paying jobs in better positions. The pay for many of our trusted civil servants are definitely not up to what we are asking of them.
Video Expose on Clean Team Santa Cruz Silenced by threats
written by Real Reality Check, May 15, 2013
There was a video on youtube exposing a Clean Team action at Carbonara Creek. A CT member was seen poking at homeless man with a stick, swearing and making threats. Other CT members are heard laughing with one also referring to the homeless as "parasites."

The video has now been set to private because the discussion on SC Patch reportedly resulted in threats.

Is this really what Santa Cruz is coming to? Threats not only on homeless people but on journalists who film such events?
Did anyone catch the YouTube video of a SC Clean Team member bullying
written by Real Reality Check, May 14, 2013
a sleeping homeless dude? He swears at the guy, pokes him with a cleanup tool, tells him he has friends that want to #$@# him up. Another man can be heard calling them (homeless guys) "parasites." The video ends with the Clean Team member wanting to throw water on the homeless guy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUpGNF_WInE

This is Clean Team Santa Cruz, a kissing cousin to Take Back Santa Cruz.

It's strange how the reality of how these groups operate don't seem to mesh up with the carefully crafted press releases and photo opportunities being happily repeated by local media.
Checking the "Fact Checker"
written by Don Honda, May 13, 2013
Cole said his agency is very interested in the concerns the 180/180 campaign has raised, but that it has to be careful not to negatively affect any other population it serves which could result in an investigation by the HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

I think there are other Housing Authorities that are doing things they don’t have the authority to do,” he said. “There are just a lot of ways you can go wrong spending public money.
Checking the "Fact Checker"
written by Don Honda, May 13, 2013
http://www.180santacruz.org/?page_id=12&paged=2

Another source of housing for this population are section 8 vouchers, funded through HUD and issued by the local Housing Authority of Santa Cruz County. On July 25, 2012 the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners voted to create waiting list preferences capped at 40 vouchers for the medically vulnerable homeless and 12 vouchers for disabled persons transitioning from institutions. If the 180/180 campaign and other efforts to house the homeless are successful, those caps could be raised, said Housing Authority Director Ken Cole.
Take Back Santa Cruz is NOT a diverse organization
written by The Truth About TBSC, May 13, 2013
Analicia Cube in spouting TBSC PR, likes to claim that the group is a diverse grassroots organization.
The truth is that TBSC is a tightly controlled operation run by a few people and everyone else is just supposed to show up and nod their heads in agreement. The is NO diversity of thought allowed by the leaders and anyone who dissents in the group is shown the door. Any supposed "diversity" of this group is simply window dressing for Ms Cube and the 6-10 people who actually set policy and the group's action items and political goals. When is the media going to actually catch on?
180/180 project is not open, transparent and accountable
written by John Colby, May 11, 2013
I made public records requests to the City and County of Santa Cruz to discern who funds, operates and administers 180/180. Beyond discovering that 180/180 is a charitable project under the auspices of the Homeless Services Center (as its nonprofit sponsor), I received only evasive answers.

I asked Don Lane, Monica Martinez, Phil Kramer, Christine Sippl and Ken Cole to participate in a public discussion about this to educate the public — they ignored me. Apparently they don't want 180/180 to be open, transparent and accountable to applicants and the community.
Separating (Section 8 waiting list) fact from fiction
written by Phil Kramer, 180/180 Project Director, May 10, 2013
180/180 helps people who are homeless through various programs and associated organizations, including the VA, Loaves & Fishes, SCAP (SC AIDS Project), HPHP, Homeless Services Center, SCCCC, SC County Mental Health, and the list goes on. These organizations administer various programs, not only Section 8. However, for people who are chronically homeless and medically vulnerable, and ALREADY on the Sect. 8 waiting list we (180/180) advocate for them, and with dedicated "Housing Navigator" volunteers, we help with Sect. 8 admin process, housing search, lease up, and move in.
Our downtown area is desperate for improvement
written by Rosalyn C., May 10, 2013
First we must acknowledge the fact that we can not help people who refuse to be helped.

As a person who lives in the downtown area and frequently walks in the area I am constantly appalled and sickened by what I see on a daily basis.

What I see daily is the norm -- that our town is being dragged down to the lowest levels of depravity and disease. This is not acceptable and I support those who demand a positive change to a peaceful and healthy environment.
FACT CHECKER
written by Phil Kramer, 180/180 Project Director, May 10, 2013
180/180 helps people who are homeless through various programs and associated organizations, including SCAP (SC AIDS Project), VA, SC County Mental Health, HPHP, Homeless Services Center, SCCCC, Loaves & Fishes, and the list goes on. These organizations administer various programs, not only Section 8. However, for people who are chronically homeless and medically vulnerable and ALREADY on the Section 8 waiting list we (180/180) advocate for them, and with dedicated volunteer "Housing Navigators" we help them through the Section 8 administrative process, housing search, lease up, and move in.
180/180 = Permanent Supportive Housing
written by Phil Kramer, 180/180 Project Director, May 10, 2013
The 180/180 campaign works with service provider organizations throughout Santa Cruz County to identify people who are chronically homeless and medically vulnerable, connecting them with programs and services on a path to Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). By definition, PSH includes supportive services, most often for people with a developmental disability, serious mental illness, substance abuse disorder, chronic physical illness or disability. PSH is cost effective when compared with general relief emergency services such as ED/hospital, ambulance transport, law enforcement and jail.
FACTS
written by Don Honda, May 09, 2013
The reason why most testimony supported continued funding of homeless services at the April 30 Study Session on Homelessness is because the audience was infiltrated by a majority of social service providers whose jobs depend on this funding.

Don Lane has only recently been onboard for tougher measures because it was good for his political future and so he could still keep a hand in. He has shown many times that he cares more for his pet projects than for public safety--his supposed #1 campaign priority.
...
written by Don Honda, May 09, 2013
Don Lane et al keep pushing for the continued scientific, evidence-based programs to help the homeless, the addicted and the criminal. However, this has not worked for the last four decades and maintains the status quo of catch and release for the worst offenders with no consequences for them. Status Quo: Santa Cruz has one of the highest crime rates across all categories in California and the country.
FACTS
written by Don Honda, May 09, 2013
The 180/180 project displaces Santa Cruz residents waiting 5-8 years for the Sec. 8 Voucher Program. It has been closed and full for the last two years. The recipients of the 180/180 project are not required to seek counseling, supervision of meds, nor recovery services. Over 35% of these recipients are not local residents.

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