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City Tackles Issue Of Homeless Encampments With Help

Task force looks to many sources to solve homelessness issues

Homeless encampments, also known as tent cities or transient camps, are in various locations throughout Suisun City.

The most visible can be seen when driving eastbound on Highway 12, as well as near the intersection of Pennsylvania Street and Cordelia Road. The appearance of the encampments are a concern for Suisun City residents and law enforcement alike, but the is working to keep these areas clear of tents, humanely.

“This is an ongoing issue we deal with here in Suisun, as do a lot of cities,” said Tim Mattos, Operations Commander of the Suisun City Police Department.

Mattos leads a citywide taskforce that meets once a month to talk about transient and homeless issues. The effort is multi-jurisdictional, as the police departnent often works with the Solano County Sheriff’s Department, the Department of Fish and Game, and CHP to solve these issues. To Mattos, these meetings are important not only to discuss keeping these areas clean, but to maintain the rights of the homeless in the encampments.

“We just can’t go in and knock things down and start removing people,” he said. “We have to give notice and if we are going to remove them from an area we have to make sure there is somewhere they can go to.”

A little cooperation can go a long way, for both sides. Mattos said those within the encampments receive a 5-day, not the legally required 72-hour, notice that they must vacate the area. A longer notice helps those at the sites get all of their belongings out, and makes for less clean up for Suisun City workers.

Mattos and other law enforcement also make sure each person is made aware of the shelters provided through Mission Solano. Public meetings with the homeless, he said, take on a sort of “Town Hall” effect, let transients know what their options are. Oftentimes Mattos, Police Chief Ed Dadisho, and representatives from Mission Solano attend. Still, many people who are cleared from the encampments return or move to another area to set up their dwelling.

“We found that those in encampments like them,” said Vic Russell, Mission Solano Shelter Manager. “The rules and regulations we have, they don’t like.”

Russell, also known as Pastor Vic, said that anyone wanting to reside at Mission Solano has to have identification, cannot have outstanding and unresolved warrants, and cannot bring in any alcohol or illegal substances to the facility.

“The guests do an assessment and intake,” said Russell. “It’s a light information form, but the assessment goes a little deeper to determine what are their needs and goals, and how we can assist in meeting their goals.”

Roll call is taken at 2:30 p.m. and spaces are given on a first come first served basis, with priority given to women and children. 49 spaces are allotted, and four times during the week, Mission Solano transports them to Rockville Bible Church to sleep after they are given a hot meal and shower at Mission Solano. Three nights a week overnight shelter is held at Mission Solano. Other services include being able to be seen by a doctor every Monday, a psychotherapist twice a week, case management and counseling, and free groceries available to the public.

 Russell said that many will come just for the hot meal and shower and return to the camps, however. For those who do seek a pillow and blanket for the night, he said they are welcome to stay whenever there is room.

“When we are at a church, some can take more,” said Russell. “If they can feed (the guests) and they have the space, we try to get them out there.”

Garry Rowe April 13, 2011 at 11:39 PM
I think it's important to define homeless in this discussion. Many of the folks in these camps have chosen that lifestyle. They don't necessarily want help getting back on their feet and to live a more productive life. They are what a couple generations ago were referred to as bums. Others are mentally ill. They need a different type of assistance altogether. Some are truly what I would call homeless. Through some misfortune, they are currently without the means to support themselves. They are the ones we should be focusing on. I don't believe that most of the ones in the camp in question fit this scenario.
David Ryan April 14, 2011 at 11:27 PM
I wonder if there is any mental health assistance for the homeless, especially in this tight economy with the state and the county being broke?
Christie April 15, 2011 at 05:58 AM
I agree with what Gerry said. I transcribed tapes of interviews with the homeless in SF for an author who published a book a # of years ago. Yes, there are people who want to be homeless because that is their choice. Provide minimal services for them & save the bucks for those who are homeless through no choice but life events going against them. I would think that most of those want & need the bootstrap help to get back on their feet. If a camp is set up in one location for those who fall into the category of wanting & needing help, then the services could come to one location on a regular basis, thereby saving, I believe, $ by not having to go looking for the homeless in various locations. The people who would be in my proposed campground are there voluntarily, but also there because they are looking for change. Those that are homeless by choice, continue to do drugs and crimes need help too, but if they decide they want to change, then they can get invited. If they break the rules, then they go to the camp that has nothing to offer and continue with their lifestyle of choice.
Ted johnson November 18, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Well this is my story in dealing with these homless people. I moved heer 4 years ago and to be honest most of them are meth users. One in paticular that walks around with a chiuahua came up to window and started yelling I opened my curtain and he was throwing up his arms in jesture to engage in violence. He scxared my daughter.. Also I was riding my bike one day and he came out of some bushes and tried to grab my handle bars. Every other time I open my door he is there trying to taunt me. After some investigating I have found out he is a gangster and a violent offender and his name is donovan. Man this sucks! As I feel like a prisoner in my own house..If you see this this guy stay away he had a girlfriend but punched her in the face and sent her to the hospital to get stitches. Also there is a female at the end of main st that looks like david bowie on crack that all the meth users go with stolen property to trade for meth.
Mara November 19, 2012 at 03:21 AM
There is a program that provides FREE short term therapy 10-12 sessions. It's called Aldea C.A.R.E. we also provide some psychiatric services. However the biggest challenge is communication. It's due to the transient lifestyle that many miss appointments and then get discharged due to missed appointments.

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