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Bee reports on Homeless-People Whisperer

Jvance Stewart, a Navigator of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, whom the Bee identifies as a people whisperer.
Jvance Stewart and his fellow Navigators are cited as homeless-people whisperers in a story titled "Workers quietly help street people, guide them toward housing" in today's Sacramento Bee.

Reporter Bill Lindelof tells us in his article that "Navigators are employed by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, a nonprofit organization of property owners dedicated to improving the central business district."

A recent issue of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership newsletter, called insideDowntown, gives us this definition of Navigators:
The Navigator program’s primary goal is to effectively reduce the homelessness downtown by connecting the underserved homeless population with social and health care services. By developing personal relationships with cooperative individuals, Navigators connect street homeless with local community service programs to increase their access to care and identify solutions to their homelessness.
Writes Lindelof in his Bee piece,
Navigators walk the streets daily and chat up the homeless. While Oprah Winfrey and the media recently focused on a tent city outside the city's core,the Downtown Partnership has worked for years to get street people in the city center into housing. [Jvance] Stewart, [55,] one of four Navigators, is admired for his sympathetic methods. Rita Spillane, the district attorney's community prosecutor for downtown, said Stewart seems to gently nudge the troubled into accepting help.

"He does a world of good for the downtown homeless population," Spillane said. "Affable, happy, helpful, humble, he's got it all. You've heard of horse whisperers; he's probably a people whisperer."

Navigators take homeless clients to Social Security offices, make telephone calls for them, contact family members, arrange transportation to doctors' offices - and work to find them temporary or permanent housing.

The Bee story goes on to tell several stories of Stewart helping, or attempting to help, homeless people downtown, within "the city's core, from Front Street to 29th Street."

UPDATE 3/18: The first commenter to this blogpost makes a good point. The reason for Downtown Sacramento Partnership's existance is to make the downtown area pleasant such that customers come and spend their money in downtown establishments. This purpose can be at odds with the needs of and well-being of homeless people.

Lindelof's article tells us that DSP also employs "yellow jackets," guides to help tourists and others maneuver downtown and to deter panhandling by homeless people. Downtown businesses' goal is for there not to be any homeless people downtown.


Peta-de-Aztlan said…
The Navigators do a good job overall, so long as they themselves do not stereotype homeless people all in one bag. Let us not forget that the primary reason for them even being on the mall is because homeless people are bad for local businesses and there needs to be a channel or group in order to steer them towards housing services, though the housing situation for homeless people is bleak these days.

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