Oh my, oh my — one can expect the fast fur just might fly pretty darn high at 5:30 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, Feb. 18, at Jensen Hall at the Lassen County Fairgrounds as the Lassen County Board of Supervisors and the Susanville City Council host a special joint meeting to discuss the issue of homelessness with the people of Susanville and Lassen County.
Now those in the know are always quick to point out dealing with this homelessness matter is extremely complicated and any solution is going to require city and county entities working closely and effectively together. They’re right. And we all should know sometimes even with the best of intentions it can be extremely difficult for different branches of government to get all the cogs and gears and wheels turning in the same direction and moving toward the same end at exactly the same time.
Consider this to begin with. The city faces the problem of homeless people living down by the river within the city limits. The powers that be at the state level leading the campaign to end homelessness have determined the best way to deal with this problem is to first get these homeless people into housing and then provide the services they need — mental health counseling, drug addiction programs, etc. to help them recover and rejoin the other productive citizens in the state. Another complicated and difficult goal to achieve.
And therein lies the first big rub. The city has no funding for these services. The funding and the responsibility for providing for such services belongs to the county. So, the city and the county are going to have to work closely and expertly together to deliver a solution if we are to make any progress at all.
Perhaps even more complicated are the wide variety of attitudes and perspectives among differing groups of city residents.
Some residents blame Crossroads Ministries. They allege the faith-based group attracts hoards and hoards of homeless people to our city, and they also complain about the message all the dirty, unkempt homeless people hanging out near Crossroads’ front door on Main Street sends to passersby.
Then there are the law and order types who believe these homeless people are polluting our river with their garbage, filth and excrement, threatening people who use the Riverside Trail or the Bizz Johnson Trail, endangering the health and safety of the entire community, especially children, when they litter the area with their used needles and drug paraphernalia.
Some in the community seem willing to suspend their judgement for now, and they’re waiting for our leaders to take action and see what solutions can be found. But it should be exceedingly clear to anyone who’s been following even the fringes of this story that many in our community have met their tipping point. To these folks, and it appears there are a great many of them — perhaps they’re even in the majority — it’s time for the local crime wave to stop one way or another. Rightly or wrongly, many of these folks find one enemy to fear and fight and they put the homeless, the tweakers, the druggies, the mentally ill and the just plain lowdown criminals in the same pile.
The supervisors and the councilmembers should get an earful tonight. And hopefully, under their leadership, we can take our first baby steps into a new era without a homelessness crisis in Susanville and Lassen County.
Speak up and be part of the solution.