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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.”

Laura Calderon March 27, 2011 at 04:22 PM
I know what I am about to write will not be the most popular with my fellow city residents, but what if in these homeless camps there is another Ron Marlette? Remember, Mr. Marlette, the Executive Director of Mission Solano, had a “hand-up” and because he was ready and with the grace of God, he is such a productive member of society. There are many, many people that have gotten help from Mission Solano and totally turned their lives around. I am glad the Police treat them with dignity and I am grateful for programs like Mission Solano. I challenge all of you out there to really count your blessings. Aren’t you blessed that you do not have severe addictions or mental illness? That could be you out there in those camps- or it could be one of your friend’s kids. I am sure all of you know someone that fell into addiction. I don’t have all of the answers on how to deal with the homeless except for PRAY FOR THEM.
Kris Jones March 27, 2011 at 10:39 PM
Thank you Laura for your comment. I thought it was very important to express how much of a balance Commander Tim Mattos is trying to bring to the situation. He understands that this is a lifestyle that may not be the most popular, but he still tries to be respectful of who they are as people, taking into consideration that the belongings they have in the encampments is all they have. Mattos also spoke of a man that was living in one of these encampments he often time would have to serve notices to. The man now lives in his own residence. So , yes, it is definitely possible for an individual to change. However, for whether a person is able, or willing, or all of the above, they are still a member of society and still have rights. I also commend Mission Solano for their outreach, because they do a lot of things I didn't even realize, and they've expanded. They have now have an additional residential facility at 310 Beck Ave in Fairfield.
Amanda March 28, 2011 at 05:02 PM
i totally agree and understand that many do have issues and problems and they do get the help they need from Mission solano and like programs. I also understand being homeless means you have no where to go. Then on the other hand I do also notice when the camps get full , Things from my back yard and my neighbors yards seem to ...."walk" away in the night . On my street alone 4 yes 4 of our kids bikes where stolen . Some are good people in bad situations i feel for them i do really. But like the article says there are places to get help if help is what is wanted. throwing up camps on any flat spot and then living there like hoarders is not ok . when you can smell the camp as you drive by it is time to clean up.....and it is time.
Karyl Hendrick March 28, 2011 at 06:32 PM
Homeless people are also hungry people, and organizations that help them need donations of food. If you are preparing a vegetable garden now, please consider designating some of it specifically to contribute to organizations that give food to hungry people. It feels great! If you have a garden that produces more than you can use, or if you have fruit trees that drop fruit that goes to waste, please consider contributing it to the Food Bank, to any distributing organization you support, or to the newly formed Fairfield-Suisun Produce Pipeline, of which I am a part. The pipeline collects excess garden produce from Fairfield-Suisun residents who offer it and distributes it to the donor's chosen organization. We are purely volunteer and have virtually no overhead (printing costs, I suppose). We have a network of organizations that support our efforts in spirit and a network that is ready to distribute any contributions that we can deliver. We recently contributed about 400 pounds of citrus to local distributing organizations and are hoping to do more, with more people helping. Please give Karyl a call at 707/399-7080 if you have produce to donate. I've submitted a request for volunteers to the Patch. It includes our brochure, so I'm hoping itwill be available for your review soon.
donald grover March 30, 2011 at 08:59 PM
I have few of problems with homeless encampments. 1. Trash,always tons of stuff laying around.I think the city should provid trash bags to these folks.Have them leave the bags by the side of the round on a certain day. Let them keep their areas clean 2. Where does their bodily waste go ? The area pictured by cordelia Road has a creek going through that leads to the sloughs,Are the areas waterways being contaminated? 3.If these folks need help lets try and give them some by letting them know where help is available. But some of these permanet campers have been in that same area for years.If you kick them out ,where do you think they will go ?
Kris Jones March 31, 2011 at 07:02 AM
Yes, Donald, I agree. And the police department seems to do an excellent job at making sure those that dwell in the encampments have options to go to. Just to make what I said earlier clear, I am not saying that anyone has a right to live on city property to set up camp. I think we are all just about on the same page when it comes to understanding that this is illegal, and can often have many other problems associated with it. Yet, there are still steps that the police have to take before they clear out these areas, and, when people return to the areas, they have to sort of start the whole process all over again.
Christie April 13, 2011 at 05:23 PM
I'm wondering if an actual homeless campground could be established somewhere like you find in state parks, etc. That is, an actual place where the homeless could go to set up camp & live w/o being hasseled to move. A place where portapotties could be set up & periodically cleaned. Picnic tables & campfire rings or grills installed. A place that is exclusively for homeless use only. A place where Solano Mission can go to provide services such as described. The police could do periodically checks on parolees who are living homeless but not to harass or spy & health conditions could be better monitored? With so much open space here in Solano Co., I would think some spot could be chosen that could meet this demand.
David Ryan (Editor) April 13, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Definitely an interesting idea, but I wonder how many people in the camp would be incentivized to find help if they had camping amenities.
Christie April 13, 2011 at 10:18 PM
If you think there would be no incentive to leave the camp, perhaps make some time contraints or "must do" in order to stay there such as rehab as an outpatient for x number of months, or attend psychological counseling sessions for a time limit, come in to Solano Mission to help. If they don't complete some of these programs or actually seek help or seek work, then they are invited to remove their encampment. That is, this encampment is for all who want to seek help and get out of this lifestyle. The other alternative would be to set up a campground with nothing available, but far enough away from those who complain about unsightliness, etc., but can still be monitored to some degree regarding health, safety issues and parolees. I still think my idea might work, but it will take work by all parties, not just the homeless. I also think it might even be cost effective in the long run.
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 (Editor) 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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