Saturday, August 8, 2009

The winter of our discontent: shelter or other sleeping space needs to be found for the coming winter for the homeless

The Winter of Our Discount Tent: Not meaning to make light of the situation, this shirt/joke was found that suits the Sacramento situation fittingly, to a T. From zazzle.
Though the August sun shines bright and brilliant, NOW is the time to address an emergency headed our way: Sleep space for the county's homeless during the winter of 2009-2010 needs to be found.

Somehow we must find space for about 200 souls from the middle of November, 2009, to the end of March, 2010. The county of Sacramento is beyond flat busted, and is now set to further raid safety-net services to fund ongoing politically-protected functions of government. The city doesn't have as direct a responsibility for the homeless, yet can step it – but in today's economy, little can be expected from the mayor and city council.

Still, something has to happen or hundreds of people for a period of a hundred cold dark dank wintry nights will suffer mightily with some getting deathly ill.

It is simply a responsibility of government and the homeless-help nonprofit organizations in Sacramento to find a way to blunt a foreseeable mass suffering. Perhaps a grant will be found to provide funding. In any case, means have to be found or a fix concocted using clever ideas and perhaps a few non-legal means.

There are two things that should be happening NOW, right now:
  1. Loaves & Fishes' Board of Directors needs to step up, take a hard look at their books and determine how they can provide 400 grand, thereabouts, to help fund a fix to the hard times acomin'.
  2. We need sets of ideas on how homeless folk might best weather the chilly times, cheaply.
Loaves & Fishes has seen their donation flow increase substantially in the last couple and a half years. Meantime they've been sitting on the stash, which amounted to fully $2 million at the end of calendar year 2008. Much of the money is perhaps restricted for the construction of a warehouse. But construction of that warehouse can be delayed, and persons who sent in donations specifically for the construction can be contacted and asked to allow their donation to be directed to meet the immediate emergency.

The sets of ideas that need to be fleshed out probably coalesce around these:

Idea 1: We need a doable plan for a small "safe ground"/legal encampment, restricted to just the winter months. At this late date, with all the government and police obstacles in front of us, a more-permanent and larger "safe ground" isn't achievable. It will need to be small and cheap with a small number of campers all of whom are not partiers with substance-abuse problems. Frankly, the fenced-in area between the Union Gospel Mission and the shelter at 470 Bannon might be a perfect location, with the fence and gate recently put in place around the property being helpful for the encampment! Another possible location is the site of the raised building on the Loaves & Fishes facility.

Idea 2: We need to find a vacant building, perhaps a warehouse proximate to Loaves & Fishes that can be cheaply rented and made ready to provide shelter for perhaps a hundred men. The shelter should be basic: just "in at 8-dinner-sleep-breakfast-0ut at 6." No extras.

Idea 3: In April, 2004, an article in the Bee, "Mission wants to add beds - The faith-based shelter would have to obtain a special permit to house more homeless men," [A Sac library card is likely necessary to access this article.] tells us the Union Gospel Mission wanted to petition the city to increase their shelter from the 86 beds the mission now provides to 250! The city/county should allow UGM and other shelters to increase the number of people they take care of during the winter of 2009-2010.

Idea 4: In Placer county, a network of churches allow homeless people to sleep at their establishments on a rotating basis. It's a "nomadic model of care [that is] used successfully in many other parts of the country." They call their program The Gathering Inn which uses 23 churches to serve 50 people. Likely, something on that model can be organized for this coming winter for our county's homeless.

SacHo will be posting more about preparations for shelter for the coming winter soon.
The title of this post is taken from the first line of dialogue in Shakespeare's Richard III: "Now is the winter of our discontent." The Duke of Gloster, later King Richard III, is ruminating about political conditions in his country. Taken out of context, before reading the whole of what the duke says, the meaning of the phrase is "NOW not only are we unhappy, we are very very unhappy." A novel written by John Steinbeck, published in 1961, was titled The Winter of our Discontent. A couple spoof books have taken the title "The Winter of our Discount Tent."

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