Posts Tagged ‘homelessness’

San Francisco will launch a “poop patrol” in September in an effort to proactively remove the masses of homeless excrement currently turning the city’s streets brown.

The $750,000 operation is the brainchild of Mayor London Breed and Public Works director Mohammed Nuru, both of whom hope the patrol’s six dedicated staff members and two trucks will be able to locate and remove human feces from the streets before pedestrians call in complaints.

The “poop patrol” will have its work cut out — since the start of 2018, San Francisco’s 311 services received 14,597 calls complaining about piles of human and dog feces on the street, according to KGO-TV. That’s roughly 65 complaints per day.

The patrol will utilize data-driven strategies to proactively get ahead of the mess in particularly sticky areas of the city.

“We have data that shows where most of the complaints are for poop cleanup. So, the goal is to make sure we have a dedicated team and they are focusing on those particular areas where we know it’s most problematic,” Breed told KTVU.

There are about 7,500 homeless people living in San Francisco according to the city, which will spend nearly $280 million this year on housing services for the homeless.

The operation will serve as a compliment to the city’s Pit Stop public toilet program. The city allotted $1.05 million in its most recent budget to construct five additional public toilets, bringing the total Pit Stops in the city to 22. But many of the public toilets are only in operation until the late afternoon, leaving the homeless with few decent options overnight.

Breed, a Democrat who was inaugurated as the San Francisco’s mayor in July, has made frequent unannounced tours of the city’s streets to monitor their condition first-hand.

She praised the city following a tour Monday for making “important investments” in public trash cans, public toilets and expanded street cleaning teams.

But Breed acknowledged there is still much work to be done.

“I just want the city to be clean, and I want to make sure we’re providing the resources so that it can be,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle.

http://dailycaller.com/2018/08/15/san-francisco-poop-patrol/

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Ever since her son disappeared almost 30 years ago, led someplace by his mental illness, Karen Bilyeu waited for him to call. She came up with theories: Maybe he witnessed a crime and was now hiding in a witness protection program. Maybe he was dead. His name was John Dean Dickens, and he was stocky and blue-eyed, with a baritone voice.

“One day, you want to think he’s alive,” the 72-year-old Cherryvale, Kansas, woman said. “The next day you don’t believe yourself.” But she remained hopeful and asked a retired police officer friend to try to find her boy.

Then, last month, Bilyeu found him.

The 54-year-old Dickens — known as J.D. — had died in May and been buried in a California grave, after the Orange County Sheriff coroner’s office mixed him up with another homeless man, Francis M. Kerrigan, who was alive. Local media covered the story, and it went viral.

At that moment, the lives of two families from California and Kansas became intertwined. They both loved an estranged, mentally ill, homeless family member, and tried to keep them close, but couldn’t. They both worried whether the men were cold or hungry or dead.

Bilyeu said she didn’t know her son was homeless until she learned of his death from the Orange County coroner’s office.

“At least he’s not suffering … not going hungry,” Bilyeu said.

Orange County officials are investigating how the mix-up happened. They plan to exhume Dickens’ body and cremate him at his family’s request.

J.D. was good at math, his younger sister, Diane Keaton, said. He would often help her with her homework, but they still bickered like siblings, she recalled, particularly when Dickens blasted Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty.”

“That’s one reason he might have survived so long on his own: He had street smarts, he had the capability of thought,” said Keaton, 52, of Parsons, Kansas.

At 16, Dickens started to disappear and use drugs, his mother said. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

When he turned 18, he would leave home for months at a time but always popped back up, his family said.

“I always got frequent phone calls from him to let me know he was OK and to check on my well-being,” Bilyeu said.

J.D. began to settle down — albeit briefly — after a stint in the US Army in the 1980s, his family said.

In the late 1980s, he briefly stayed with Keaton, who was married, pregnant with her third child and living in Arkansas. But Keaton and her husband were struggling financially and their electricity was turned off, she said. They couldn’t afford to support their family and her brother.

So, J.D. left on good terms. He promised to let her know when he got settled.

“It wasn’t a big deal for him because he was used to getting up and going,” Keaton said.

J.D. made his way to Phoenix, and Bilyeu recalled having a cryptic conversation with him while he was there.

He said his car was stolen, and he knew who did it. But if he tried to recover the car, there would be trouble.

“We discussed it and we agreed, maybe the best thing was to leave it, get out the atlas and go down the road a little way,” Bilyeu said.

Again, he promised to call as soon as he got settled. That was the last time they talked.

“It’s heartbreaking, and it’s just over and over and over because you get your hopes up,” Bilyeu said. “Maybe he’ll call this birthday, and you hear nothing.”

“It’s the worst thing that could ever happen to a parent,” she said, “not knowing if (your child) is OK, if they’re hungry.”

‘My heart breaks for them’

About 15 years ago, Kerrigan was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, said his sister, Carole Meikel, 56, of Silverado, California. She said the challenges her family and Dickens’ family faced were identical. “My heart breaks for them,” she said.

Kerrigan’s life started to unravel a few years after the diagnosis, when their mother died about a decade ago. That’s when he became homeless, Meikel said.

Meikel said her family tried to get her brother, known as Frankie, into housing, but he wanted to stay on the streets. Mostly, she said, he was good about keeping in touch, but she still feared that something would happen to him.

Mistaken identity

In May, the Kerrigan family got a call from the Orange County coroner’s office with startling news: Frankie was dead, they said.

Officials told 82-year-old Francis J. Kerrigan that they had identified his son through his fingerprints, and that they didn’t need the elder Kerrigan to identify the body, members of the Kerrigan family said.

Speaking through his lawyer, the elder Kerrigan told CNN he believed his son was dead at that point — “no question about it.” But a Kerrigan family attorney said officials had actually identified the body found outside the cellular store in Fountain Valley using an old Department of Motor Vehicles identification.

An autopsy said that man died of an enlarged heart and fluid in his lungs, KABC reported.

The Kerrigans saw the body days before a funeral on May 12, and it was tough to recognize, the station reported.

But on May 23, Frankie called his father from the home of a family friend, who had served as a pallbearer at the funeral. He was alive. Days later, the family attorney notified the coroner’s office of the mistake.

The attorney has filed notices of claims, a prelude to a lawsuit, against Orange County on behalf of the elder Kerrigan and Meikel, seeking a little more than $2 million. The court papers allege the younger Kerrigan’s civil rights were violated and the family suffered emotional distress.

‘That’s J.D. — I know it’

On May 30, Orange County officials correctly identified the body using fingerprints. About a month later, Orange County officials reached J.D.’s stepsister in Illinois, who passed a message to Bilyeau, Keaton said.

An official later told Bilyeu of her son’s death in Fountain Valley, but not about the cause of death, Keaton said.

“What upsets me and Mom … is the media knew what he died from, the (Kerrigan) family knew what he died from and the attorneys knew,” she said. “She should have told us.” Keaton said Orange County officials also didn’t mention the mix-up to her mother.

Keaton, who had seen news reports about the burial mix-up, suspected her brother may have been the misidentified body. She also noticed that a form to consent to his cremation said he died in Fountain Valley and was homeless, like the man in the news reports.

Her brother’s physical description also matched the description of the unidentified man.

She called her mother around midnight with the news. “That’s J.D. — I know it,” she said.

A Kerrigan family attorney, who knew the identity of the misidentified body, later confirmed it was her brother, Keaton said.

Soon, Bilyeu will get her son’s ashes and she may spread them at a family plot. Or she may hold onto them, and she’ll leave instructions to bury the two urns together when she’s cremated.

“He and I have always been so close,” she said.

Lives of families intertwined in homeless men’s burial mix-up

by Matt Hickman

Sprawling and largely suburban in character, San Jose — highly affluent de facto capital of California’s Silicon Valley — is home to one of the nation’s most well-educated, socially progressive, ethnically diverse and highest paid populaces. It’s also blessed with beautiful weather, a fabulous park system and a low crime rate for a city of its size. Everything is hunky-dory, all sunshine and Dionne Warwick songs, in the well-heeled epicenter of America’s busiest tech hub.

Except that it’s not.

Like its (technically smaller) neighbor to the north, San Francisco, the third most populous city in California struggles with exorbitant housing costs, severe income inequality and a homelessness crisis that shows no signs of abating.

Yes, there are homeless people in the Silicon Valley. And way more than you might imagine.

As reported by the Mercury News citing 2014 statistics released by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, San Jose and greater Santa Clara County have the fourth largest homeless population in the United States. With an estimated 4,063 homeless residents, San Jose has the nation’s third largest population of chronically homeless residents and the nation’s fifth largest population of homeless veterans.

In total, 69 percent of San Jose’s homeless population are living on the streets, in cars, in abandoned buildings and in encampments. One such encampment, “The Jungle,” was one of the largest — if not the largest — homeless camps in the nation until it was cleared out in 2014. The site has since been reclaimed by nature and other, smaller settlements have popped up around the city’s secluded wooded areas along creeks and riverbeds. In lieu of overcrowded shelters or encampments, many of the Silicon Valley’s homeless sleep aboard the 22 Bus, the only 24-hour bus line in Santa Clara County.

Never a city to shy away from innovation and outside-the-box thinking, San Jose is now turning to the tiny house movement to give shelter — even if just temporarily — to those who most desperately need it.

Crisis mode meets creative thinking

A new piece of legislation authored by Assemblywoman Nora Campos and signed into law by California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 27 would allow San Jose to circumvent statewide building, health and safety codes that would otherwise impede the creation of garden shed-sized standalone dwellings. In lieu of abiding by state regulations, city officials will adopt their own unique set of building regulations that enable the construction and distribution of homeless-geared tiny houses.

The law, which will be valid for five years at which point its impact will be assessed, can only be enacted if San Jose declares a “shelter crisis” — and it already has.

When the law goes into effect in January of next year, San Jose will be the first city in California to officially embrace tiny houses as a means of combating homelessness.

Speaking to the Mercury News, Ray Bramson, the city’s homeless response manager, notes that the tiny houses, so en vogue with middle-class downsizers and flexibility-seeking Millenials, would serve as a sort of “temporary stopping point” while the city constructs 500 affordable apartment units over the next several years.

“This law really is the first of its kind,” Bramson tells the Mercury News. “It will allow us to create bridge housing opportunities — a stable place people can live and stay while they’re waiting to be placed in a permanent home.”

Tiny houses with a big impact

San Jose will soon launch a competition seeking designs for the diminutive housing units. The emphasis, according to the Mercury News, will be on “innovative features, cost effectiveness and replicability.”

The legislation, Assembly Bill 2176, dictates that single-person “emergency shelter cabins” must measure at least 70 square feet while standalone shelters for couple must be no less than 120 square feet. Each unit must be insulated, wired for electricity, include at least one lighting fixture and be topped with a weatherproofed roof. And this is a biggie: Each tiny house must also include a privacy lock.

Tiny houses, often bespoke and kitted out with high-tech bells and whistles, are generally in the 200 to 300-square-feet range in a non-transitional housing context. So, yes, 70 square feet is on the extremely petite side for a tiny house.

As for location, it would appear that San Jose is following in the footsteps of cities such as Austin, Texas, and Olympia, Washington, by establishing transitional micro-housing villages. Although sites have not been selected — and this may prove to be tricky part — the new law states that the tiny houses must be placed on city-owned or leased land no less than a half-acre. Each cluster of tiny houses, referred to in the bill as “emergency bridge housing communities,” would include on-site supportive services and bathroom facilities.

“It was huge for the governor to sign this because it’s outside-the-box and no one else has done it,” Assemblywoman Campos announced in a statement. “Other big cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles will be looking at what we do here. We had to do something because what we were doing wasn’t working.

It’s interesting that Campos mentions Los Angeles, a city where officials have yet to embrace the concept of tiny houses for the homeless but where private citizens have.

Such is the case of Elvis Summers, a power drill-wielding mohawked Angeleno that, in the absence of action from city officials, stepped up and decided to do something for his neighbors living on the streets of South L.A.

In 2015, Summers and a team of volunteers began constructing dozens of tiny houses, each costing about $1,200 to build. For financing, Summers launched a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised big bucks and garnered international media attention.

However, not long after the recipients of Summers’ hand-built micro-shelters began to get accustomed to sleeping with honest to goodness roofs over the heads, L.A. sanitation workers, under orders from City Hall, began an aggressive crackdown on the structures. While some were saved by Summers and temporarily moved to private property, others were impounded by the city.

Why?

It’s simple: The brightly hued tiny homes built and distributed by Summers failed to meet the very same stringent building and safety codes that San Jose will soon be smartly bypassing.

http://www.mnn.com/your-home/remodeling-design/blogs/san-jose-tackle-homelessness-tiny-houses

After a California couple called off their wedding, the bride-to-be’s family decided to turn the $35,000 extravagant event into a feast for the homeless.

The bride’s mother, Kari Duane, said Sunday that rather than cancel the reception, they invited Sacramento’s homeless for a once in a lifetime meal Saturday at the Citizen Hotel, one of the city’s finest venues.

Duane said her 27-year-old daughter called her Monday to tell her she and her fiance had decided not go through with the wedding. Soon after, the family decided to share the nonrefundable event with the less fortunate.

“Even though my husband and I were feeling very sad for our daughter, it was heartwarming to see so many people be there and enjoy a meal,” Duane said.

She said they had already paid for a reception that would have hosted 120 guests. About 90 homeless single people, grandparents and whole families with newborns showed up and enjoyed a meal that included appetizers, salad, gnocchi, salmon, and even tri-tip. Some even dressed up for the occasion.

Erika Craycraft arrived with her husband and five children.

“To lose out on something so important to yourself and then give it to someone else is really giving, really kind,” Craycraft told KCRA-TV.

Part of the wedding price tag includes a nonrefundable honeymoon, so on Sunday mother and daughter set off for Belize.

“I hope that when she looks back at this, she knows she was doing something good with a bad situation,” Duane said.

Every Tuesday night, Joan Cheever hits the streets of San Antonio to feed the homeless. In a decade, she’s rarely missed a night. But on a recent, windy Tuesday, something new happens.

The police show up.

“He says we have to have a permit,” Cheever says. “We have a permit. We are a licensed nonprofit food truck.”

Cheever runs a nonprofit called the Chow Train. Her food truck is licensed by the city. On this night, she has loaded the back of a pickup with catering equipment and hot meals and driven to San Antonio’s Maverick Park, near a noisy downtown highway.

Officer Mike Marrota asks to see her permit.

Documents are produced, but there’s a problem: The permit is for the food truck, not her pickup. Cheever argues that the food truck, where she cooks the meals, is too big to drive down the alleyways she often navigates in search of the homeless.

“I tell you guys and the mayor, that we have a legal right to do this,” Cheever says to Marrota.

Marrota asks, “Legal right based on what?”

The Freedom of Religion Restoration Act, Cheever tells him, or RFRA, a federal law which protects free exercise of religion.

The officer isn’t buying it. He writes her a ticket, with a fine of up to $2,000, making clear that San Antonio tickets even good Samaritans if they don’t comply with the letter of the law.

The National Coalition for the Homeless says upwards of 30 cities have some kind of ban on distributing free food for the homeless. Many, including San Antonio, want to consolidate services for the homeless in one location — often, away from tourists.

Does invoking RFRA give Cheever and other good Samaritans license to ignore the law?

“That is not, actually, an easy question to answer,” says Michael Ariens, law professor at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. “RFRA applies when the government of any type substantially burdens an individual’s free exercise of religion.”

The key phrase is “substantially burdens,” Ariens says.

“RFRA doesn’t allow any do-gooder to simply to do whatever they wish — to make a law onto themselves without interference from local or state government,” he says.

Cheever complains that San Antonio has joined other cities in turning feeding the homeless into a crime.

On the next Tuesday night, Cheever is back in Maverick Park, risking another ticket. She could even be arrested.

But this time there are no police. Cheever and her Chow Train volunteers are greeted by dozens of supporters and homeless people.

“It warms my heart, but it doesn’t surprise me, because the community is behind me and they are behind every other nonprofit that does what I do,” she says.

In late June, Cheever says, she will challenge the ticket in court.

http://www.npr.org/2015/06/13/413988634/when-feeding-the-homeless-runs-afoul-of-the-law

By the end of 2015, the chronically homeless population of Utah may be virtually gone. And the secret is quite simple:

Give homes to the homeless.

“We call it housing first, employment second,” said Lloyd Pendleton, director of Utah’s Homeless Task Force.

Even Pendleton used to think trying to eradicate homelessness using such an approach was a foolish idea.

“I said: ‘You guys must be smoking something. This is totally unrealistic,'” Pendleton said.

But the results are hard to dispute.

In 2005, Utah was home to 1,932 chronically homeless. By April 2015, there were only 178 — a 91 percent drop statewide.

“It’s a philosophical shift in how we go about it,” Pendleton said. “You put them in housing first … and then help them begin to deal with the issues that caused them to be homeless.”

Chronically homeless persons — those living on the streets for more than a year, or for four times in three years, and have a debilitating condition — make up 10 percent of Utah’s homeless population but take up more than 50 percent of the state’s resources for the homeless.

The Homeless Task Force reported it costs Utah $19,208 on average per year to care for a chronically homeless person, including related health and jail costs. Pendleton found that to house and provide a case worker for the same person costs the state about $7,800.

“It’s more humane, and it’s cheaper,” Pendleton said. “I call them ‘homeless citizens.’ They’re part of our citizenry. They’re not them and us. It’s ‘we.'”

For six years, Suzi Wright and her sons, DJ and Brian, shuttled among friend’s homes, a van and the Salt Lake City homeless shelter.

After Utah gave Wright a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, she got a job as a cleaning supervisor at her apartment complex.

“It makes you feel a lot better about yourself, just being able to support your family,” Wright said.

Those given apartments under the Housing First program pay rent of 30 percent of their income or $50, whichever is greater.

Army veteran Don Williams had been sleeping under a bush for 10 years when Utah offered him an apartment.

When he realized they weren’t joking, he “jumped for joy,” he said, laughing. “It was a blessing. A real blessing.”

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/utahs-strategy-homeless-give-them-homes-n352966

Saint Mary’s Cathedral, the principal church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, has installed a watering system to keep the homeless from sleeping in the cathedral’s doorways.

The cathedral is the home church of the Archbishop. There are four tall side doors, with sheltered alcoves, that attract homeless people at night.

“They actually have signs in there that say, ‘No Trespassing,’” said a homeless man named Robert.

But there are no signs warning the homeless about what happens in these doorways, at various times, all through the night. Water pours from a hole in the ceiling, about 30 feet above, drenching the alcove and anyone in it.

The shower runs for about 75 seconds, every 30 to 60 minutes starting before sunset, simultaneously in all four doorways, and soaks homeless people, and their belongings.

The water doesn’t clean the area. There are syringes, cigarette butts, soggy clothing and cardboard. There is no drainage system. The water pools on the steps and sidewalks.

A neighbor who witnessed the drenching said, “I was just shocked, one because it’s inhumane to treat people that way. The second thing is that we are in this terrible drought.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homeless said, “It’s very shocking, and very inhumane. There’s not really another way to describe it. Certainly not formed on the basis of Catholic teachings.”

A cathedral staff member confirmed the system was installed, perhaps a year ago, to deter the homeless from sleeping there.

https://cbssanfran.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/homeless-saint-marys-cathedral-archdiocese-san-francisco-intentionally-drenched-water-sleeping/?preview=true&preview_id=471419&preview_nonce=a7ea4dcc06