Tag Archives: homeless in Chico

I think we all agree we need some level of help for homeless people, but we need to be asking questions about the expense and lack of results

28 Jan

 

After I read about the Torres Shelter threatening to close it’s doors, I went about researching the kind of salaries they pay down there. I couldn’t find director Brad Montgomery’s salary info anywhere, but I did find an ad for a counselor to address clients at both the Torres Shelter and the Jesus Center – salary about $42,000/year.  This position was offered through Northern California Catholic Social Services, which I was surprised to find gets most of it’s funding through the county Behavioral Health Department. Look at the wages they are offering and the duties they heap on.

For example – $13.40 an hour for these  “Minimum Employment Qualifications” – Experience working within the foster system, court system and/or with volunteer preferred. Must have reliable transportation, valid driver’s license and insurance. Must be able to multi-task and have solid computer skills; especially Word and Excel. Needs to be able to communicate verbally and in writing, documenting work on a computer is a required. The successful candidate will be able to work independently, use good judgment and be part of a team.

The list of duties would insinuate a lot better salary. This particular position does not offer paid benefits but ” is eligible to participate in our benefits package including: medical, dental, vision, EAP and life.”  On $13.40 an hour, you’re supposed to provide your own insured vehicle, gas to drive it, and then pay for your own health benefits? And this is a position that includes hands-on duties with clients. Wow.

https://nvcss.org/careers/

Meanwhile Butte County Behavioral Health Director Adrian Kittrel, who does not work with  clients, makes over $200,000 in salary and pays less than 10 percent of his own benefits and pension.

This is the typical lop-sided situation with most public agencies. This is why they have trouble filling these positions.

On another job website I found positions listed for Chico Area Recreation District – a “coordinator” who works with social media from their office gets a salary of  about $42,000, with benefits paid by the taxpayers (CARD management pay nothing for their benefits). Meanwhile other CARD positions – those who actually run the activities for the public and supervise our children – pay less than $15 an hour. These are part-time positions – 25 to 27 hours – that do not come with any health or pension benefits. You’re working too many hours to get another job, but you can’t make enough money to support yourself.  Most of CARD’s jobs are poverty level  jobs, while they pay their general manager over $120,000/year, and she pays nothing toward full health care and pension.

Researching this topic I came across a very interesting article about doctor burnout. The author just happens to be a psychiatrist.

http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2016/01/doctor-beat-burnout-can.html

She is pretty frank about her disappointment in the medical sector. Her biggest problem seems to be over work and a “factory” atmosphere at her job. This prevents her from doing her best for her patients, and that adds to the frustration and depression. 

It is interesting to hear from the other side of the coin, this goes a long way to explain the patient’s miserable experience.

And you may feel same – I’m frustrated that we pay for this. Butte County Admin Officer Paul Hahn says over half the county budget goes to behavioral health and other services for the indigent. The money does not seem to solve the problem, it only results in more behaviorally disturbed and indigent people being brought into our county. In Chico it’s becoming a total disaster.

This morning my husband and I cleaned our garage and took our horde of recyclables over to The Work Training Center. I asked my husband to drive me over to take a look at the Torres Shelter, I have not had a good look at it for years.  The first thing I notice are what looks like cars being lived in, parked along the street outside the center, along the Costco parking lot. It looked like a gypsy camp. According to their website, “guests” are only allowed to check in from 4:30pm to 6pm. If they want to check in at another time, they must call between the hours of 10am and 3pm to make an appointment with shelter staff.  The shelter is “open for guests from 4:30 pm – 6:40 am daily.”  

I’ve heard complaints that the clients are “kicked out” at about 7am. I don’t know if there is a meal in the morning, but I think the Jesus Center offers a breakfast. There used to be a shuttle service that picked up those who do not have cars, took them to the Jesus Center, or various public agencies around town, because local businesses were complaining that they stayed in the area, “milling around” the commercial sector. That shuttle was largely funded by city of Chico, who discontinued their funding last year. So now you find this little encampment surrounding the shelter, out in the public  right of way, cars full of flotsam everywhere but the driver’s seat, windows covered with old tarps, a van with foam core over the front windows. A little group of dirty and disheveled men working under the hood of a car that looked like it should be headed for the scrap yard. It looks like any other homeless camp.

Last year when we were at Chico Locker one afternoon, my husband and I noticed the same scene in the parking lot surrounding the Jesus Center. A dilapidated motor home sat behind the JC building, some crappy cars, even a tent, all  obviously occupied. We wondered how that could be going on, the Jesus Center was supposed to have all these rules. Not long after that conversation, we heard Bill Such was being let go. We realized, he’d been allowing the laissez faire camping. We found out, a new board had taken over, a bunch of realtors, bankers, business people. They were ready to hold a higher bar for the center.

This is what needs to happen at the Torres before I am willing to support them in any way. I don’t think they should get city funding, and I think donors should ask more questions about why this shelter is so expensive to run when it is of such marginal service. 

 

 

 

Butte County Behavioral Health director describes process by which more homeless are attracted to Chico to provide salaries for public workers

5 Nov

I attended the Local Government Committee yesterday afternoon, and after listening to the Butte County Behavioral Health Director Dorian Kittrell talk about his departments’ efforts to administer to the homeless, I’m depressed.

I wanted to get to the bottom of this discrepancy between what I’m hearing from Chico PD about their spending hours at Enloe with “street people” and what I have been hearing from Kittrell about all the staffing and programs the county offers to administer to the same people. 

According to County Administrative Officer Paul Hahn, over half our county resources – employees and budget – go to programs to administer to the homeless and poor. 

This item was agendized by Chico council member Reanette Fillmer, who said “people” don’t think the city is doing enough to administer to the homeless, and she wanted to hear what the other various agencies were doing. 

Here’s what they’re doing – they’re bringing homeless people to Chico every day, providing millions and millions of dollars in housing and “programs” to facilitate their dysfunction. Some of these programs, according to Kittrell, are intended to house these people only for a couple of days, get these people cleaned up, sometimes “back on their meds,” and then back out into the community to go back to being a problem.  He even mentioned one program for which patients are being brought in from outside the county to fill the beds.He acted as though that was great! Yeah, it means more money for him and the rest of the hogs. 

Kittrell is even trying to enlist private landlords to house these people. This, he answered Reanette Fillmer, is “the gap” in local homeless services, we aren’t providing enough housing for these people. Even after he listed the various types of transitional, temporary, and “emergency” housing the county and other agencies offer, and the millions that go into these programs. 

You know what that means – instead of having to get a use permit and deal with public hearings, they just sneak what amounts to a group home into your neighborhood without having to even tell anybody. This is the kind of thing that makes neighbors hostile toward landlords and rentals. 

Kittrell says they actually spend about $2 million a year on employees who are supposed to be contacting local landlords, asking for housing for these people, openly described as having “mental problems” and even substance abuse problems.  Not just housing, he says, but people who care enough to babysit their tenants, make sure they pay their rent on time, mow their lawn, and take their meds. 

Excuse me for saying this, but that’s nuts.  They spend millions on buildings that only house 9, or 11, or 16 people at a time, millions more on staff to run these programs, and then turn to the public and tell us, we need to be our brother’s keeper.  We’re all qualified to provide care for mentally ill people? But Kittrell gets a package worth over $200,000? 

Kittrell and others tried to tell us, 80 percent of our “homeless population come from Chico.” What does that mean in a transplant town like this? Where do their parents live? That’s where “they come from”. Where was the last place they served time? That’s where “they come from.” For every one of these people who was born in Butte County, I’ll show you somebody that followed the Grateful Dead out here, or came here because we have a college campus, or came here because we have “good” social programs. 

What does “local” or “townie” even mean around here anymore? Nothing. Kittrell lives in Yuba City, his last job was in Sacramento. What we’re talking about, are the two kinds of people that take advantage. The first kind are creeps who have learned to live a life that doesn’t have any  rules or boundaries, just blend in with the local scene and don’t get caught red-handed. If you do get caught, your crazy, and that includes your drug problem, and you must be taken care of like a new baby.  

The other kind of take advantage types are the public workers who make a very sweet lifestyle out of administering to these creeps.  The first kind might break into your car, or sell drugs to the kids at the high school, but the second kind gets into your purse, into your bank account, attaches themselves to your property taxes.

It’s like being eaten alive from both ends.

At one point Kittrell said he wants to get to people “before they are in crisis.” Well, I’ll say, Kittrell and these others are creating crisis in our community. They’re ripping us off of money we need to pay our bills, send our kids to school, money we could  be spreading more around this community. While our streets and other public facilities are in ruin, these people manage to get a bigger budget every year, telling us they’re looking out for our interests. They’re just feathering their own nests.

Here’s why they don’t go into the park, or “under the bridges”, as Kittrell says – they’ve cut the funding for that kind of outreach in favor of paying $100,000 + salaries and $25,000 + compensation packages. They don’t have enough money for outreach workers – one man blamed it on Arnold Swarzenegger. No, it’s mismanagement. It’s managers eating all the money for themselves and leaving nothing to hire people who actually work “hands-on” with the patients. 

Why are Chico  PD spending so much time at Enloe with “street people”? Because even with all these agencies and staff who are supposed to be equipped to deal with the mentally ill, I was told, law enforcement can’t tell when a person is drunk or on drugs or has schizophrenia, so they have to take them to Enloe ER to be evaluated. Kittrell insisted that Butte County BH has plenty of staff to take these people, but I’m still told that a police officer has to be present. I’m just not getting it.

What I am getting, is that with these people in charge, we will soon be living in the most expensive mental hospital north of San Francisco. 

Local Governments Committee to discuss “Homeless Support and Prevention Initiatives” – Wednesday (Nov 4) at 3:30, conference room 2

2 Nov

I’ve been busy – getting ready for rain, re-learning how to function in rain,  etc. But, there’s a meeting Wednesday I just can’t pass up – the Local Governments Committee, made up of members of various elected boards. This committee is supposed to meet quarterly to talk about issues that involve county, city and various local public agencies, kind of a “Hey, Left Hand, look and see what the Right Hand is doing…”

But they aren’t held that regularly, the last one I attended was in May. It’s funny to read the minutes from that meeting,  attached to Wednesday’s agenda. I remember the discussion about library funding was a lot more lively than reported here!

Click to access LGC-11-4-15-AgendaandMinutes.pdf

Sean Morgan called the library supporters “nazis” and that pissed Larry Wahl off. Mark Sorenson waded in like Daddy come home from the office to find squabbling. It was kind of tense – Maureen Kirk actually apologized for asking, she’s such a nice lady. She had wanted to know the process by which the Community Development Block Grant money was divvied out – that’s all explained in the minutes. But nothing about Sean Morgan’s behavior, or how Larry Wahl or Mark Sorensen reacted to him. Meetings, People, you got to attend the meetings.

The item that is of interest to me is the first up, “Homeless Support and Prevention Initiatives.” We will get a report from the county’s Behavioral Health Director regarding various programs he has been working on to get people “off the street,” whatever that might mean to you and me.

I have met BH Director Dorian Kittrell  via e-mail, through my supervisor, Maureen Kirk, when I made inquiries about stories the cops are passing around town. Chico Police Department Business Support Team leader Jack Van Rossum said in an interview on Alan Chamberlains’ podcast talk show that Chico PD spends so much time with street people down at Enloe Hospital that they need what amounts to –  his words – a substation.  Van Rossum said Enloe was willing to give them the space but Chico PD needs money to equip this space with phones because they can’t use their cellphones from inside the hospital. They also need, Van Rossum says, a place to go to work on reports, instead of sitting in the ER or the hallway. 

When I asked Kirk and later Kittrell about this situation neither had heard anything of the sort. Kittrell said he’d check into it, so I’ll have to ask him if he found out anything.

As you can read in the minutes from that last meeting, Behavioral Health has received grants to purchase and staff a building over near the old Community Hospital.  These staffers are supposed to be available, 24-7, to meet Chico PD at Enloe and take these people off Chico PD’s hands. The only time a cop is required  is when “patients are uncooperative…” or they’ve committed some crime.  So I wondered – why would Chico PD employees be spending so much time at Enloe? 

I keep asking myself – I know you are – why do I care about this stuff? It’s all part of the continuing conversation about crime getting worse in our town all the time. I’m not just hearing about it on the news – we’ve had a break-in within doors of our own home and all our rentals here in town. All had this in common – a window was broken out of a locked car and items were removed from the car. All happened right in front of the victims’ front doors, within ten yards of their home. They happened within sight of my windows, and other people’s windows, and one happened in the broad daylight. None have been “solved.” 

When I looked at the police log in the paper yesterday same thing – of five vehicle burglaries four involved windows broken out of locked cars. They are happening at all times of day, in all neighborhoods, most of them right out on the street. 

While Chico PD are sitting in the hallway at Enloe filling out their reports? 

Whenever we have something like this in our hood, it makes me so suspicious of every Tom, Dick and Harriet I don’t recognize anywhere near my property. There are so many transients in our town, we can’t recognize them anymore. It seems like new faces turn up next to the front door at Safeway on Mangrove every day. We hear conversations where the ones who’ve been here for a while tutor the newbies – “get a bike, it’s good to have a dog, don’t camp below One Mile,” we overheard one woman and her boyfriend telling another dirt-smeared young couple sitting on their pile of belongings next to the water machine. 

I want to know, what Behavioral Health is doing to separate out the truly helpless and needy so the cops can start enforcing the laws on the ones who are taking advantage of the situation.  I think the root problem is the camping in the park and along waterways like Lindo Channel, and I’m not convinced, aside from that high-profile and short-lived sweep of One Mile, that the police are doing everything they can to end it. They use the mental health issue as a shield, they insinuate we’re going to denigrate them if they arrest these people. I think there also might be a problem with the district attorney’s office not charging these people with anything – apparently they have to be in possession of more than $900 in stolen goods before Mike Ramsey will turn a hairy eyeball on them. Is that true? I’ll try to find out. 

That meeting is Wednesday, 3:30, at City Muni Bldg, conference room 2.