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Local opinion columnists

Let the homeless dialogue begin

By From page A8 | March 17, 2014

Recent concern for the problems at Lee Bell Park provides a good opportunity for dialogue about homelessness, compassion, tough love and the safety of an entire community. At Mission Solano, we welcome that dialogue.

Mission Solano has been an innovative source for addressing the needs of our most-vulnerable and needy neighbors in Solano County for more than 15 years. Mission Solano pioneered the program and coined the term “nomadic sheltering” to provide an emergency shelter that moves from church to church, 365 days a year.

With our strategic partner HomeAid and the generosity of Solano County, the city of Fairfield, businesses, churches and individuals, Mission Solano opened the doors to the Bridge to Life Center in 2009. This center takes up where nomadic sheltering leaves off. Here, staff and residents address the habits and decisions that led to a life on the street. New habits are formed, lives begin anew and these guests become “the former homeless.” Mission Solano helps them to see life “holistically,” addressing the physical, behavioral, psychological, emotional and spiritual brokenness, thereby breaking the cycle of poverty and homelessness.

Unfortunately, not everybody in the homeless community welcomes the help that Mission Solano can provide. Homeless resistance to help, the increasingly urban environment of Fairfield and the proximity to a jail that regularly releases people have all contributed to problems at Lee Bell Park. Unfortunately, Lee Bell Park is not the only place in the county that faces the degradation that comes when people make a park their home.

What can we do and what should we do?

Mission Solano has long advocated tough treatment for those who wish to take over our public places and use them as their home. Because our compassionate community offers so many alternatives, we feel that it is appropriate to demand that the homeless use our services to stay off of the street.

Of course, Mission Solano is limited in its ability to enforce discipline once the homeless leave our facilities. The mission maintains a policy that individuals sacrifice the right to our services if they do not follow the direction of case managers, which includes not loitering in parks or places that are not moving them to housing and self-sufficiency.

We encourage our city and county leaders, along with the law enforcement community, to develop and enforce policies that combine compassionate services with tough requirements to not be a nuisance to the community. If you agree or disagree, we would like to hear from you.

Effectively and efficiently addressing the issue begins with a dialogue that brings innovative and creative partnerships of how to administer compassion that changes the giver as well as the receiver.

Ron Marlette is the founding executive director of Mission Solano. Reach him at [email protected]

Ron Marlette


Discussion | 8 comments

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  • Skeptic ScroogeMarch 17, 2014 - 3:34 am

    The biggest mistake Mission Solano makes is forcing those who need help to socialize with others, "homeless schooling" them. So one says to the other, hey come camp in my RV if you are not allowed at Lee bell. We can crap in the bushes and leave our cigarette butts and trash on other peoples lawn since no one in an RV pays for trash service. Then that guy tells ten more, they all cook some meth, come back to MS when hungry, tell fifty more while standing in line for a forced religious routine, go to the library to feed the ducks with the bread from MS, stink up that place, etc. Quit homeless schooling!!!

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  • JacobMarch 17, 2014 - 10:27 pm

    @ Skeptic, I am not creative enough to imagine how one could try to help homeless people through a system of isolation from each other... But I don't deny that there is a some negative peer pressure that goes on akin to your description. Perhaps you highlight the need for more consistent positive influence in their day- volunteer mentors who can come alongside individuals and make a life-changing difference... This could be the missing piece of the institutional puzzle. In the mean time, I applaud the proactively firm hand of Mission Solano in calling for a cooperative and balanced response (rather than operating as either enabler or tyrant) to public dilemmas such as these.

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  • my2centsMarch 17, 2014 - 6:16 am

    Fairfield Law Enforcement is well aware of the Jefferson Street RV problem and is doing nothing about it. The RVs parked near the jail downtown are a permanent fixture. Why do Fairfield PD do nothing to address these problems?! There are many wonderful homeowners downtown. There won't be for much longer if our City does not ensure our neighborhoods are free of such vehicles. Would FPD allow the RVs to park in Paradise Valley or Rancho Solano development? We don't want RVs parked in our neighborhood either.

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  • Mr. SmithMarch 17, 2014 - 6:22 am

    If the city council and FPD don't become actively involved, nothing will change. Mission Solano is doing its part, I believe. Local churches seem willing to do theirs. Thanks to Ron Marlette for sharing his insights and for clearly describing Mission Solano's role and expectations. It is time for the city to exercise some "tough love" of its own. Return our public areas like parks and the library to respectability, so that all citizens can safely use them again. Get these "hard-core homeless" people off the streets and out of the bushes if they refuse to avail themselves of the assistance they need. Find out if other cities have employed strategies that work. Most of all, find the will to tackle the problem.

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  • CD BrooksMarch 17, 2014 - 7:36 am

    The folks wandering around living in the bushes and shopping carts have done so since I can remember but have only become prolific in the last ten years or so. Like Mr. Smith says, it's difficult to miss as they have "established residence" at the entrances to the city and have not moved on. Is this an “out of sight out of mind problem? Or is there actually a remedy to remove or relocate them for their safety and well- being to the satisfaction of everyone? I’ve heard of the term “towning” (where PD pretty much takes you to the city limits and forces you out) and learned that it is illegal but it seems that’s what many would d like…

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  • B. ThiemerMarch 17, 2014 - 7:05 am

    I'll borrow a quote from a column in Sunday's DR: "Do we have abundant services because there is a large homeless community, or do we have a large homeless community because there are abundant services?"

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  • FedUpMarch 17, 2014 - 8:47 am

    I am Fed Up with the library and Civic Center Park being soiled for everyone in the community by the homeless.. The homeless sit on the park benches near the library and smoke and do drugs. It is disgusting. I no longer use that park with my kids and I am considering no longer using the library. I can just as easy buy my books on Amazon. The city and library need to get this sitiuation under control.

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  • concerned citizenApril 19, 2014 - 11:32 pm

    I believe that Mission Solano is excellent and doing its job. It is the homeless that do not want help that are still in streets and polluting parks etc.

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