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 firstname.lastname@example.org.