Santa Cruz policies not to blame for homeless issues
This is in response to the commentary by Mike Degregorio (SLV paying price for Santa Cruz’s homeless policies,” Nov. 8, page 6) regarding homelessness.
The commentary’s discussion of homelessness is as much based on fantasy as its discussion of this summer’s “Vietnam”-like threat of fires that “could have wiped out entire communities,” something that nobody I know was concerned about or talks about.
The commentary blames Santa Cruz policies, which the writer calls “CruzCare” for the large number of homeless people in the county.
But the main culprits the commentary cites — food stamps, medical care, and welfare – are federal and state programs that are available everywhere.
They are not Santa Cruz policies, and, therefore, could not possibly draw homeless people here.
The only local issue the commentary cites is the needle exchange program, but its purpose is to protect the entire county from the spread of infectious diseases; it is not primarily a service for the small percentage of homeless people who use needles.
According to a Santa Cruz Sentinel article on the recent homelessness survey, 26 percent report substance abuse problems and, presumably the vast majority of that is alcoholism.
The Oct. 23 Sentinel article also reported that 72 percent of the homeless people in our county became homeless while living here.
Thus, the vast majority of homeless people are already here, and do not come here because of city or county policies or any other reason.
To the extent they are attracted to this place, it is probably for the same reasons that draw others; climate and beautiful natural surroundings.
Given our high unemployment rate, it is unlikely they come to find jobs.
And given that attitudes like those expressed in the commentary are increasingly common, it is unlikely they come because they feel welcome.
Peter Gelblum, Boulder Creek
Homeless numbers due to banks and lack of mental health care
A Press-Banner commentary (“SLV paying price for Santa Cruz’s homeless policies,” Nov. 8, page 6) blames the recent spate of wildfires in SLV on the City of Santa Cruz’s homeless policies.
It is not fair to condemn an entire category of people for the misguided actions of a few, nor to lay it at the feet of the city council.
What SLV residents may not know is that a 2013 census shows that 72 percent of the 3,536 homeless people in Santa Cruz County lived here before they became homeless, a ratio 5 percent higher than two years ago.
It is simply not true that Santa Cruz’s policies are bringing the homeless here.
I suggest that the numbers more accurately reflect decisions made by banks and by the California Department of Mental Health that closed mental hospitals without having alternative facilities in place.
The City of Santa Cruz has 23 percent of the county’s residents and 33 percent of the county’s homeless.
Of the over 3,500 homeless people in the county, there is shelter space for 18 percent of them.
There are some wonderful initiatives going on in the county to help the unsheltered 82 percent.
Interfaith Satellite Shelter Project, an alliance of six churches that houses and feeds dinner and breakfast to unsheltered homeless people; Hope Swells, a job training program to help homeless people work to provide their own shelter; Santa Cruz Sanctuary Camp, that seeks to establish a semi-permanent village with strict rules of conduct, alcohol and drug cessation programs, and job counseling and training.
This last, a concept often feared by local residents, has proven hugely successful in towns that have allowed it.
One such camp boasts no police involvement in four years and 40 percent success rate in moving people out of homelessness.
Instead of pointing fingers, we might help our homeless neighbors by getting involved in creating and supporting solutions.
Polly Hughes, Ben Lomond
Cancer patient and veteran’s stories inspire courage in others
It is rare two articles impress me as did the stories of the brave Pat Jocius as she battles breast cancer (“Her battle,” Nov. 8, page 4) and Shawn Smith the Marine hero (Vet reflects on decade of military service,” Nov. 8, page 8).
Pat’s long battle has been a brave one, and while many of us may someday know the pain of cancer, I can only hope we each endure it as she has. Shawn Smith’s battle, both on the battlefield of war and now as a recovering injured, again has been bravely fought, and if only each of us could take a minute, look in the mirror and hope we too could summon that kind of courage.
My prayers are with them both.
Thanks to the Press-Banner for sharing their stories.
Dan Misko, Felton
Residents upset with homeless policies should get involved
I would like to comment on the commentary made by Mike Degregorio (“SLV paying price for Santa Cruz’s homeless policies,” Nov. 8, page 6) regarding the homeless policies of the City of Santa Cruz.
Unfortunately, the commentary was very misleading. It is not the City that implements all the programs that were listed (needle exchange, medical care, food stamps) these are all County of Santa Cruz programs.
Mr. Degregorio, you can do something. Call your county supervisor that votes on these programs and express your frustration.
As county residents, we are responsible for the decisions made by our board of supervisors — and it is Santa Cruz city residents that have to deal with the fallout from these programs, programs such as the needle exchange program that the Santa Cruz City Council has expressed frustration with to the County Board of Supervisors, without getting any change in the policy.
I would encourage everyone who is upset with these policies to contact their county board representative.
Lisa Petersen, Scotts Valley
Santa Cruz policies not to blame for homeless issues