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.”