I am a retired social worker. This is regarding the recent Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting on Dec. 1st. Jim DeMartini, outgoing supervisor of district 5, made disparaging remarks about homeless persons in our county, and the people who are trying to help them.

It was a long meeting, I watched it on the website video. Most of it focused on wide range efforts to mitigate homelessness in the last few years. There was an extensive report detailing the shelter and housing crisis in our county, and how it is addressed through various partnerships with law enforcement, other government agencies, and non-profit service providers.

Besides the immediate need for shelter, most homeless persons need support to address the factors leading to their situation. It may require physical and mental health referrals, substance abuse treatment, and employment assistance. 

Success comes through engaging with each person and gaining their trust.

Following the report were many expressions of gratitude. Supervisor Withrow said: "All the work we've done leads in the state. Kudos. Thank you." Supervisor Chiesa said the approach made sense to him. I was impressed too. Jim DeMartini was not impressed. When he coughed and cleared his throat, I think we all knew he was going to give us a piece of his mind.

He said: "What we do here is a failure. If they want to be a burden on society make them pay a penalty and put them in jail. Law enforcement is lacking, allowing people to terrorize the communities. Bums, vagrants, criminals." He talked about an empty lot in his district, with trailers and junk motorhomes.

"Don't coddle them. Throw them in jail." He compared homeless encampments to those of third world refugees. "They need to live to the standard everyone else does. I don't live on the street, I don't shoplift in stores, I don't have open drug use or drunk in public," sayeth he who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Tell us how you really think Jim!

He went on to say, "This issue has been bothering me for years. We give out free stuff to bums." How many years Jim? Sixteen? His comments reminded me of when I ran against him in 2016. We were on the campaign trail, and in several forums, he blamed all the woes of society on fatherless homes. In other words, single mothers.

Whatever Jim. Happy trails. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Eileen Wyatt Stokman 

Retired social worker

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