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    Santa Paula: Homeless and Laws

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    By Sheryl Hamlin

    Santa Paula Police Chief Steve McClean presented an overview of how the SPPD is responding to the homeless situation. He said that five years ago it was gangs; now the department is inundated with calls relating to the homeless. Read a previous report where a group of merchants spoke at council about concerns for safety at their place of business.

    Chief McClean

    On March 6, 2019, the Chief said there were 135,000 homeless in CA with 100 counted recently in Santa Paula, up from 44 last year potentially because of a longer count period. Ten of the Santa Paula homeless are serious threats to the community, he said.

    Not discussed was the total Ventura County homeless count which was 1299 in 2018 with 36.8% sheltered. Read county report here.

    History and Timeline of Deinstitutionalization of Mental Patients

    Chief McClean mentioned the closing of the mental hospitals in the 1980’s without expanding on the legal environment which caused these events.

    There were the several cases in the 1970’s brought forth by the ACLU community to reduce the number of patients designated involuntarily to mental facilities. The unintended consequences of deinstitutionalization was to reduce the population of the mental hospitals, thus driving up the cost per person. After years of declining population, Sacramento realized there were too many released. See exerpt from New York Times article.

    NY Times, 10/30/1984

    Because of the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, it is now estimated that millions do not receive needed psychiatric care and many of those are homeless. Read timeline of legislation affecting deinstitutionalization here.

    Ventuira County Services

    Chief McClean said that there are only two facilities in Ventura with less than 100 beds. Note that Oxnard has recently opened this facility.

    California Laws

    The Chief said that the three laws Propositions 57 and 47 along with AB 109 dumped criminals of the streets. Now, he said, there are no consequences. No one does jail time, he said. What used to be a felony is now a “ticket”. Read about California’s dangerous trifecta of laws that put criminals on the streets.

    Whole Person Care

    The Chief said we need to address the “whole person care – mind, body, soul”. He said he realized that the location of Santa Paula’s Warming Center is not optimal; he is hopeful that a new location will be in the future. To this, City Manager Rock said that there may be a chance for the shelter to move to Harvard Boulevard. He did not mention the kitchen and the food distribution, but presumably those would transfer too.

    City Manager Rock also said that the state has budgeted $300 million for homeless at the state level. To put this in perspective, the county and the state just paid $60 million for a 64 bed hospital at Todd Road Jail, which is about $1 million per bed.


    The Chief will be recommending a Homeless Task Force as part of the SPPD along with a dedicated team of Foot/Bike Patrol, a service that was formerly staffed with overtime and became very expensive. He also shared with council a form that merchants could sign to allow SPPD onto their property in cases of problematic trespassing. Council Member Juarez, a former SPPD officer, said the form was good for sleeping in doorways.

    9th Circuit Martin v. City of Boise

    Mr. Cotti, the city attorney was asked to describe this case. Cotti said the city “cannot criminalize homeless unless there are enough beds”.

    The decision known as “Martin” was much more nuanced. Read this article with the excerpt below:

    Exerpt from Martin v. Boise

    Boise has appealed the 9th Circuit decision. Read that appeal here.

    In another important case, a federal judge has said that Oakland can close a homeless camp. Read here.

    In the council discussion, Council Member Crosswhite suggested City Manager Rock follow up with the county’s offer of a case worker.

    To watch the video, click here.


    For more information on author click sherylhamlin dot com

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    Jeff Burum
    Jeff Burum
    3 years ago

    Chaos and dysfunction by design

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