Homelessness workshop

The city led a workshop on homelessness Wednesday night at the Tracy Transit Station.

About 40 people turned out for the latest workshop on homelessness in Tracy as city officials look for ways to find shelter for people living on the streets.

Assistant City Manager Midori Lichtwardt, coordinator of the workshop series, said the goal was to come up with a plan that reflected the common goals of the city government and the community organizations and nonprofits that work with those seeking shelter.

Wednesday’s workshop at the Tracy Transit Station was a chance for people to define who homeless people are in town and what challenges they have, including issues beyond housing, such as safety, health care and transportation. Participants also discussed the resources that may already exist, such as transitional housing already in place and buildings that could be converted to transitional housing.

“Part of it is helping to understand what resources we have here in terms of nonprofits and county resources,” Lichtwardt said. “One of the things we hear a lot is that the county resources don’t make it out to Tracy, so how do we make sure we get those resources?”

The final meeting is scheduled for Jan. 14. At that time, Lichtwardt expects to have a plan that the public can review. By spring, she hopes that the Tracy City Council will be able to authorize city actions that will give people alternatives to living on the streets and in campsites scattered around town and in city parks.

Over the course of the two-hour meeting, city officials and residents, including some who live in their vehicles, talked about the challenges that homeless people face, and whether government and nonprofit agencies have identified realistic goals.

Theresa Kohler said she and her husband are living out of their truck. Their situation is made more difficult because of his health issues and those of their 26-year-old daughter, who was recently hit by a car.

“I didn’t hear anything that could help anybody right now,” she said, but she plans to come back Jan. 14.

“It’s a start. We’ll see what comes next month,” she said, adding that the issues she faces are far from insurmountable.

“We have money every month. I have a down payment. I have a deposit. I have a few months rent in advance if I need to, but I just can’t find a place.”

She added that the people working on solutions should aim to prevent people from becoming homeless rather than provide services only to people who have lost everything.

“A lot of people out there, they’re not criminals. They’ve got to do something for these people,” she said.

Lt. Octavio Lopez of the Tracy Police Department noted that the city’s code enforcement division, which he supervises, often is called to deal with issues related to homelessness when social services would be a better solution.

“I think we can all agree that sometimes people don’t know where to turn to so sometimes calling the police is the answer,” he said. “We know that it’s not always a police matter. We’re trying to come together so we’re going in the same direction rather than pulling in opposite directions, and I think that’s the goal behind this eventually.”

Carena Lane, director of occupancy and housing compliance with the Housing Authority of San Joaquin, said a lot of voices were involved in the conversation, which she believed should be narrowed down to how to get people into housing.

“They need to continue having buy-in from the people who are actually having the issue,” she said. “They have to stay on task to determine what the problems are and find solutions.

“You’ve got to start with some short-term goals before you can start reaching out.”

Joyce Claffy, who works with Tracy Community Connections Center on East 10th Street, agreed that long-term solutions are needed, but the city needs more than that.

“People want solutions now, and our solutions are going to happen next year. They have to realize we’ve got a lot of data that’s been collected and it’s going to be given to professionals who are going to come up with a plan, and then we’re going to review it,” she said. “To me, it came out that we’re not finding solutions right now.”

Lichtwardt said that the public input gathered at these workshops would be valuable to finding out where services could be put to the most effective use.

“A lot of the same issues were echoed and in these community meetings we drill down into the weeds of the how, which is what our community will provide versus — at the strategic level a little higher up — how the governments can interact with the nonprofits,” she said.

“It won’t be solved in three months, six months or a year, but hopefully we can have some things that will positively impact some of the issues we see around homelessness: getting people into more permanent housing, finding housing for people who want it and can take up those opportunities.

“No one entity is going to do it alone. It’s all about partnership.”

Contact Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com or 830-4227

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