Lodi Committee on Homelessness member Kathryn Siddle on Tuesday morning said that a high percentage of the city’s homeless want to get off the streets.
However, each individual is different and she is hard at work determining what services each of the city’s less than 200 unsheltered individuals need.
“If I’m told that so-and-so is turning down services and they don’t want help, the first thing I have to do is sit down with them and ask what kind of help do they need,” she told the Lodi City Council during a LCOH update at the Tuesday morning shirtsleeve meeting.
“If I’m only giving out large T-shirts, I’m not going to be able to clothe everybody,” she said. “So what I’ve discovered is most, a high percentage of the people want some kind of help. There are very few people that don’t want any. It’s more of identifying what kind of assistance they need. A lot of it takes multiple visits. You have to establish trust and there’s a lot of fear in dealing wit the unsheltered and a lot of it has to do with coping mechanisms.”
Siddle said if she does encounter a homeless individual that refuses some sort of service, she will continue to meet with them, establish trust and help them. But it takes several visits, she said, and a lot of patience.
“It’s not fast work,” she said. “You can’t go out and hand someone a brochure and say they didn’t want it because they didn’t call. It takes a lot of repetition. It’s very challenging and trying work. It can be successful, just takes a lot of patience. We don’t give up on someone who says they don’t want any services.”
The committee was established in 2015 to address Lodi’s homeless issue, and since then it has developed partnerships with a variety of nonprofit organizations, including Grace and Mercy Foundation, Community Partnership for Families, the Lodi Community Center, San Joaquin County Whole Person Care, San Joaquin County Behavioral Health, and Community Medical Centers, among others.
Siddle said she and a handful of LCOH members would go out to homeless encampments with community every other Wednesday to conduct outreach, collecting names and what services individuals need.
But in recent weeks, the committee has begun to push harder, she said, holding 16 outreach events since April 1, which include interviewing people to understand current needs and barriers to housing.
In March, before the outreach efforts increased, the committee contacted 44 homeless individuals, and was able to refer two to Project Roomkey and get them placed there.
Project Roomkey places homeless individuals most at risk for contracting COVID-19 in motel rooms for isolation.
Two other individuals applied for Social Security, two are waiting for admittance to the Stockton Shelter Family Room, and one was admitted to the county’s Behavioral Health Services crisis center.
Multiple referrals are pending, Siddle said.
Since April 1, Siddle and her colleagues have contacted 83 homeless individuals and are currently in the process of referring them to services.
“We are sitting down with people, doing intake and identifying what are their personal barriers to housing,” she said. “We go through everything from education to job status and income. It really identifies what their needs are. People are looking for us now. They want services, they want help.”
Of the city’s homeless population, Siddle said there are at least a dozen who are ages 50-65 who have incomes, but no place to live, adding landlords who rent spaces typically like tenants to have an income as much as three times the rent.
She said anyone making $800 a month cannot afford to live in Lodi.
Committee member Johnny Coughran said Siddle is only able to reach those that need minimal services, as those who need a variety of resources are often addicted to drugs and either do not understand her or are unwilling.
“Kathryn is a mobile resource unit, but we haven’t been able to figure out how to do a mobile rehab unit,” he said. “It’s just people and their addiction, she cant get through to them because they’re not coherent. As you know, numbers for the last Point in Time count, 65%-plus was people in addiction. Those numbers need to be considered because Kathryn can only get so far with those that aren’t in addiction or those that might be willing.”
Tuesday’s shirtsleeve was only an informational meeting, so the council did not take any action or make suggestions.
Mayor Alan Nakanishi said the LCOH needs more help if the city wants to combat homelessness and get the unsheltered off its streets.
“The city and nonprofits cannot do it alone,” he said. “They need the help of citizens and the religious and philanthropic organizations. The homeless will not go away. We must not shut our eyes, and we must continue to work at the root problems, which include a lack of affordable housing, mental health, drug addiction and lack of jobs.”
On Thursday, the city’s community development department announced it would soon be engaging in a citywide informational campaign to gather feedback on the development of an Access Center.
An access Center, the city said, is not a homeless camp, but a low-barrier, service-enriched shelter that connects individuals and families to resources that will help them exit the cycle of homelessness.
Onsite services include intensive case management, hygiene facilities, 24-hour staffing including security, and janitorial services.
Partners, pets, and possessions are allowed in a low-barrier setting. Violence, weapons, open use of illegal substances, or disruptive behavior will be prohibited within the facility.
The access center and immediate neighborhood will be monitored by security around 3the clock, and routine patrols will be conducted, the city said, and janitorial staff will ensure the center remains clean and debris free on a daily basis.
With a sufficient minimal barrier shelter beds, the city said it can focus its enforcement efforts on reducing the occurrence of camping in public right-of-ways, parks, in front of businesses, and elsewhere in Lodi.
For more information, contact the community development department’s Neighborhood Services Division at NeighborhoodServices@lodi.gov.