The “homeless problem” is not going to get any better – $1 million grant eaten by management salaries, county having trouble recruiting for the lower paid, “hands on” positions

10 Aug

I sent a note to District 3 supervisor Maureen Kirk, asking about the results of the $1 million grant the county received to beef up Behavioral Health services. I reminded her – Chico PD has complained that there are no staff to take care of people “who are a danger to themselves or others,” the police are in the habit of handing them over to nurses at Enloe Emergency Room. This is not only a problem for Enloe staff and other patients in the ER, it’s a financial problem for the hospital, who does not receive  any reimbursement for these “patients.”   Another problem is, once the police leave, hospital staff is not able to force them to stay, and they oftentimes just leave as soon as the cops are out the door. Problem not solved.

I wrote a rambling note to Supervisor Kirk, complaining that “sit and lie” and “clean and safe” have only driven transients out of the Downtown area and into the rest of town, especially the Vallombrosa and Mangrove corridors. She responded that she knew this was a problem.  She described the city’s strategy as “whack a mole.”  She’s right – they’ve whacked them underground, and they’ve popped up at the CARD center, and Rite Aid parking lot, and the post office annex, etc. That’s just my neighborhood, I can’t say what’s going on around town,  but I’ve also noticed the usual concentration out at East and Esplanade, near the new Raleys, is growing. They had a stabbing in the East Ave Raley’s parking lot a week or two ago, and one morning I witnessed a little hobo fight in the parking lot, where they congregate to turn in their recyclables.  At that time, it just looked comical, now I realize, those dirty old fuckers are packing – they pretty much have to if they don’t want to get stabbed and robbed by another one of their buddies. I told a city committee about similar incidents when I was a college student in Sacramento, and some of them actually made fun of me, acting as though I was making it all up. 

Kirk forwarded my inquiry to staff, and got this answer: 

We are moving along with program implementation in the ERs – Enloe included. We have many of the staff hired (though not all the staff – we are finding some challenges recruiting for the evening shift staff) – and will hopefully be interviewing a new group of candidates next week or the week after. Our IT departments are working together and are almost finished with setting up the secure internet connections in the ERs. Finally, we have completed site visits for Medi-Cal certification and are just waiting for State/Federal response. Our Crisis Manager is working with Enloe to begin setting up training for staff. I am hoping that program start-up (at least at Enloe) will begin in early to mid September. We are also working to get triage personnel in the shelters during this same time frame.
> In the meantime, we continue to provide the mobile crisis services at the ER as we always have.

Yeah, I’ll bet they’re having “challenges recruiting for the evening shift staff”! Who wants to do a job like that for $30 – 35,000 a year? Are we talking about people with any training? Well, they likely had to go to college and work long internships to get that training. They’re older people by now, maybe have kids? But they’re expected to do a  job like that, at night, for a salary that won’t even pay the rent. much less car expenses. And what about child care – who has a child care center open all night? Don’t say “the spouse,” a lot of people are single parents these days. On a salary like that, they’d have to be on food stamps to make ends meet.

I’d also like to respond to the comment the staffer made at the end. I won’t call her a liar, but the cops said there is no “mobile crisis service,” and that’s precisely the problem. The cops bring in these lunatics covered in their own excrement, and there they sit in Enloe ER, oftentimes until they become able to motor themselves out the door. Nobody picks them up after 5 or on weekends, that’s the precise problem, but the staffer denies it.  Denial is a major part of this problem.

I asked Maureen Kirk if she actually expected a $30-35,000 employee to deal physically with these people when the $100,000+ psychiatrist they hired won’t even be coming into the same room with them, but she hasn’t got back to me. Kirk makes about $58,000 salary as supervisor and also enjoys health and pension benefits, although I don’t know how much of  that she pays.   I asked her if she would take a night position at Enloe to deal with mentally disturbed street people for a lousy $30-35,000/year.  Maybe she’ll come over to the blog and talk to us about this problem. 

The short of it is, we still have a major problem here,  and it’s not getting any better.



2 Responses to “The “homeless problem” is not going to get any better – $1 million grant eaten by management salaries, county having trouble recruiting for the lower paid, “hands on” positions”

  1. Darlene Giampaoli August 10, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    Thank you for your attention to this matter. My husband and I are tired of this issue as well. He and His father own the old Hollywood building on East & Cohasset and last week he spent 2 days cleaning up the human feces and trash left behind by the transients. So while our City is not dealing with this problem, our tax-paying citizens are left to clean up the mess.


    Darlene Giampaoli

    • Juanita Sumner August 10, 2014 at 11:22 am #

      Thanks so much for coming over Darlene, I really appreciate some back up on this issue. I believe the root of the problem is a poor attitude on the part of Chico PD, but so far they’ve blamed the situation on lack of support from Butte County Behavioral Health, and I have to agree they get none.

      When my husband and I had problems with transients trespassing on a rental property we owned, Chico PD would not help at all. In fact, when our tenants called Chico PD about transients sleeping on and using the porch as a toilet, the person they talked to told them they couldn’t complain about trespassing because they weren’t the property owner. I called and got an officer who confirmed this policy. I asked him, how do I keep these people off the front porch of my rental? First, he told me in order for it to be a valid trespassing complaint, I had to fence off my yard and put up a “No Trespassing” sign. Then he told me, I had to get a form from Chico PD, and list specific people, by name, who were not allowed to trespass on my property. I had the officer FAX me the form, but at that point the whole thing seemed so ludicrous, I never pursued it. How was I supposed to get names? We finally sold that rental.

      The police say, essentially, that when they try to arrest these people on “petty” complaints like trespassing, shoplifting, drunk in public, public urination, etc, they just play CRAZY. The police officers, with a week’s training in a mental health class at Butte College, are left to make the call – is this person safe to take to jail? Or do they need psychiatric help/restraint? Whether they decide to arrest the person, take them to the ER at Enloe, or leave them to wander off into the bushes, is totally up to their judgement. I believe it is standard procedure to simply ignore the call as long as they can and hope the “perp” will disappear before they get there.

      If they do respond, and then decide the person is a “danger to themselves or others,” they are supposed to take them, during business hours, to a facility on Rio Lindo Ave. But, that facility is only staffed 9 – 5, Monday – Friday. On off hours they are taken to Enloe. This is the excuse the police use – they don’t like dropping these filth-covered drunks off on the ER staff. Despite what the gal from the county says in the response from Maureen, the cops have said, they get no help from BH after 5pm Friday. Patients are left to lay around Enloe for hours in their own gunk, sometimes wandering out the door on their own when they recover their senses. Or, realize the threat is gone, they can sneak away now, without paying so much as a bottle top for the use of a gurney that is now covered with their bodily filth and odors.

      I wish you would write to Maureen Kirk or Larry Wahl, whoever is your supervisor, and express your concerns about the broken link between Chico PD and Butte County Behavioral Health. We need to tell the county to stop hiring these high priced consultants who don’t do anything, and put more money into the salaries that are dealing directly with these people, after hours, on weekends, etc.

      I’ll prattle here – my second grade teacher went on a trip to the Aztec pyramids. She told us about the horrible human sacrifices, and other stuff the priests made the people do. She told us, it was wrong for such a small group of people to have so much power, and that’s why we’re lucky to live in the USA. She left out the part where we have to be on our leaders all the time, pushing and shoving them to do the right thing.

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