Thursday, February 4, 2010

Trouble in Homeless World: An alleged crime on North C Street

Picture of Kevin Peterson that appeared with the Bee article, "Inmate arrested for alleged rape attempt hours after early release."
An article in today's Bee tells us of the arrest of Kevin Peterson just hours after "an early-release ... on a charge of attempted rape."

I know Kevin, a little. He stayed at the mission for a few weeks, and, after he left, I saw and talked with him some in and around Friendship Park.

The Bee article, because of the charges, and from not knowing Kevin, gives the impression that he is some sort of beast of prey. That doesn't reconcile with the Kevin that I know. I know him as a particularly gentle and self-conscious fellow, young and handsome [especially so when shaved and with short hair as when I was first aquainted with Kevin] ― but with mental-health issues he talked about, and that were sometimes evident, that troubled him and made him at times withdrawn.

It is clear that many of the fellows I know in Homeless World have back stories and dark sides I am fully unaware of. And I have to suppose that many of them are archly not whom they seem to me to be ― or, that they have many aspects or subpersonalities (good and bad) that I am never occasioned to see during the banter around the mission or in Friendship Park or out on the street.

Still, the Bee story is significantly wrong because it targets Kevin as a prime, egregious example of a failed reduced-sentencing plan.  The full story of Kevin's situation is atypical and, thus, doesn't deserve being targetted as it is by the Bee.

I don't mean to dismiss nor diminish the hurt Kevin caused by his actions on a recent Tuesday afternoon "in the 1300 block of North C Street" ― which is on the Loaves & Fishes compound.  Clearly, it seems, it is not safe for Kevin to be loosed upon the world without addressing his mental problems or his criminality.

Still, if Kevin is an example of anything, it is first that of a mentally-troubled man who has been abandoned to the streets because our society has been doing that the last several decades. On top of that, mental-health funding in Sacramento County has been unconscionably slashed during these, our economically-troubled, times. Also, the homeless-help industry in our city pays greatly inadequate attention to those in the homeless population who suffer the most, the mentally ill.

When our economy was first beginning to falter, Volunteers of America dumped its mental-illness outreach program. Great shame on VOA.

And Loaves & Fishes doesn't train its Green Hats [staff in Friendship Park] on how to identify, deal with nor help denizens of the park who manifest behavior that suggests mental illness.

I do appreciate, from what I glean from the Bee story, that an attempt was made by an L&F mental-health program to give Kevin help.

It is easy in retrospect to write this, which is true:  Kevin's needs were greater than what the L&F program is crafted to provide.

More than a fourth of the Sacramento County homeless population is mentally ill, according to the most recent Street Count.  I submit that if the Bee reporters who wrote today's story had dug a little deeper (and had been fully conscientious), their story would have been a lot different.  I hope a proper follow-up story is forthcoming.

UPDATE 2/16/10:  I was hearing some talk that the police report shows that all Kevin is accused of doing is shoving a woman in a couselling center at Loaves & Fishes.  Today, I looked at court records which can be sought here:  saccourt.ca.gov .  Kevin has now been arraigned and charged with PC 220; PC 243.4; and PC 236, in the California Penal Code, which are, respectively, "Assualt with intent to commit mayhem, rape, sodomy ... etc."; sexual battery; and false imprisonment.  Very serious charges for very bad actions that are alleged.

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