Solano County

Grand jury report criticizes homeless relief effort

By From page A5 | July 16, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Solano County lacks leadership in finding solutions to the homeless situation and needs to take a more assertive role, according to a 2013-14 grand jury report released Tuesday.

The county is ultimately responsible for overseeing homeless programs, but has largely delegated these duties to the Community Action Partnership of Solano Joint Powers Authority, the report said. By doing so, it has removed itself from day-to-day responsibility and accountability for many of the programs, it said.

This joint powers authority was formed in 1999 under another name and has board members from the county, Fairfield, Suisun City, Vacaville, Dixon, Benicia and Vallejo.

The grand jury called on the county to appoint one employee to oversee homeless services. This position should have the authority to consolidate services and to be effective, the report said.

“The county needs to grasp the scope of the problem, to come up with creative and inventive responses to the homeless needs,” the report said.

Solano County Interim Health and Social Services Director Patrick Duterte on Tuesday agreed changes must be made.

“We’re taking it very seriously that this issue is really important and really needs to be restructured,” Duterte said.

Solano County officials knew the Community Action Partnership of Solano Joint Powers Authority had problems and had a 2013 report done on the situation by the nonprofit HomeBase, he said. That report was sent to all the cities.

“It was a wakeup call,” Duterte said.

The county and the cities will reconfigure the joint powers authority and get new commitments to make it run right, Duterte said.

The county in its new budget has money authorized to hire a homeless coordinator. This coordinator will work with the cities to address homelessness, Duterte said.

Solano County has a responsibility to address the homeless issue, Duterte said. But he noted that most of the homeless population is in cities, not the rural county. A joint powers authority with the cities is the best way to go, he said.

The county runs no homeless shelter. Fairfield’s Mission Solano shelter, for example, is run by a nonprofit group. Among the grand jury’s recommendations is having the county create homeless shelters and drop-in day centers.

Duterte didn’t rule out having such a community conversation, though he said having the county run a shelter might not be the best approach.

“If it was going to go that way, it’s something we’d do with our partner cities, rather than something we’d do on our own,” Duterte said.

The report calls on the county to establish care facilities for people with chronic mental health issues. Duterte noted the county contracts with nonprofit groups to provide such services.

Homeless issues have gotten a higher profile in Fairfield in recent months, in part because of situations such as the homeless living in parks. Police Chief Walt Tibbet in June said the city is working with the county and service providers about how to better address homelessness.

Among other things, the grand jury report criticizes the county for taking several years to obtain a mobile medical van with $145,000 in federal funds. The county recently bought a van used in the 2008 Hurricane Katrina disaster in Louisiana, but this van needs maintenance and improvements prior to being used to serve the needy, it said.

“The excessive amount of time which it has taken to get the mobile medical van is a classic example of talk of change versus timely action,” the grand jury report said. “For the amount of money that has been earmarked for this resource, having achieved such a limited outcome is disappointing.”

Duterte said the medical van should be on the road no later than August.

Solano County also has a mobile dental van. When the grand jury toured the van April 16, the van had been out of operation for six weeks because of malfunctioning hydraulics, with no return-to-service date, the report said.

The county stopped using the dental van because of a staffing issue, Duterte said. It has solved the problem and the dental van should soon be on the road again, he said.

It’s unclear how many homeless people live in Solano County. A county Health and Social Services report from 2005 put the number at 4,000 to 5,000 at any given time. But the 2013 HomeBase report said the county in 2013 had 1,329 people experiencing homelessness, with 889 unsheltered and 440 in shelters.

One reason for the difference might be how “homelessness” is defined. The 2005 report included people sleeping in cars, with relatives and on the couches of friends.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

Discussion | 11 comments

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  • Skeptic ScroogeJuly 16, 2014 - 2:05 am

    Thats stupid. Every time the County creates a homeless shelter the County gives it away, example Heather house, which is why they technically own zero. Not very good fact finding or history on grand jurys part. Needs a redo by people that want to solve the real problem.

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  • Skeptic ScroogeJuly 16, 2014 - 2:09 am

    Also, 2005 study says if I move back in with my mom the government needs to take care of me??!! What a joke.

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  • 2realJuly 16, 2014 - 5:48 am

    I think the firgures are more than they think..

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  • mikeJuly 16, 2014 - 10:13 am

    fairfield makes it too easy for the homeless to stay. What happened to those responsible for the hwy 12 fire no body knows, nothing was reported. The homeless just movet to another section of town. What happens now ? Another fire ? Yesterday I saw a homeless man on Cordelia corridor by himself in the middle of a field. He was yelling and screaming jumping around like a crazy man. I thought damn this guy is only a few blocks away from my house ! Fairfield is sad when you can't feel safe in your own house

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  • CD BrooksJuly 16, 2014 - 10:38 am

    Mike, I agree the homeless are an issue but I have not seen anything so far that pins the fire on them? Some fool smoker and there are a lot of them that do this, could have tossed their butt out the window. Throwing litter and cigarettes out the window are those wonderful "if I didn't see it I can't do anything about it" laws. Nice.

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  • Homeless go home.....July 16, 2014 - 12:44 pm

    "Solano County has a responsibility to address the homeless issue." How about a responsiblity to the taxpayers of Solano County and save money? Is there a way to pass a law to ban homeless from cities/counties? Or how about saying they must report nightly to a designated place so they can sleep there? Is there a law that says we have to fund homeless shelters? I know it sounds like I'm cold-hearted, but my neighbors and I are tired of seeing our tax dollars getting shelled out for this kind of activity without requiring anything in return, except that we need to give more and more and more......

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  • ALJuly 16, 2014 - 2:50 pm

    SS I dont know that county owned any of the local shelters and gave them away like Mission Solano Heather House or Opp House. Most of the time these sevices are contracted to nonprofits and the local shleters do keep a lot of homeless off the streets. If you want to live in your mamas house at age forty dont compare that to the real problem of a family out on the streets. Thats a false comparison.

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  • DCJuly 16, 2014 - 2:54 pm

    Homeless go away you sound like a bigot. There are homeless in every state and city, wishing them away wont solve the problem.They County has money to invest in eradicating homelessness not by shooting them off the streets but helping root the problem out. They need to work with local hospitals and mental heath service providers to come up with solutions.

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  • mikeJuly 16, 2014 - 4:31 pm

    Let's be compassionate about a problem that will grow each year. Make a system that says we can give homeless food and water in order to register their arrival and a time limit when they will move on. If we stay complacent to the problem, it will out of control fast.I don't want Fairfield to be a hobo mecca.

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  • DCJuly 16, 2014 - 5:40 pm

    I agree. We need to invest in programs which help them become self sufficient.

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  • 2realJuly 16, 2014 - 7:27 pm

    Homeless will continue to thrive as long as bertani feeds em

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