Ceres and other cities across the nation’s hands have been effectively tied in how to deal with the homeless by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court refused to review a Ninth District decision that makes it harder for cities to keep homeless people from sleeping on the streets.
Twenty California cities filed “friends of the court” briefs in a bid to get the Supreme Court to consider hearing an appeal on the Ninth District Appellate Court ruling regarding Boise, Idaho law that made it illegal for the homeless to sleep on the street.
The court ruled that Boise could not constitutionally make it a crime for the homeless to sleep on the streets or in public places if there is no shelter available for the homeless.
“It is a disappointment the case wasn’t heard but we will continue to provide services within the boundaries of the current laws,” said Ceres Police Chief Rick Collins. “The current state of homelessness in our city, this region, and the rest of California is a serious challenge for those wanting services, providing services, communities, and those conducting commerce.”
Any time there are beds available and a homeless person won’t go to the shelter, law enforcement has court clearance to enforce anti-camping laws.
Currently, Ceres has no emergency shelter beds available. Most of the services are across the river in Modesto. Turlock has 115 emergency shelter beds available for the approximate 250 homeless individuals (from a 2019 point-in-time homeless count), which is better than most communities in the state, according to Assistant to the City Manager for Housing and Economic Development Maryn Pitt.
One year ago this month Ceres city officials determined that they were not interested in a new state program offering grant funds to help deal with homeless populations. The council voted 5-0 to oppose declaring a shelter emergency in Ceres to be eligible for some of the $7.2 million that is expected to be made available in Stanislaus County.
The state Legislature adopted the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) to provide $500 million in community block grants to tackle the homeless crisis statewide. City Manager Toby Wells said that in order to access those funds, cities must pass a resolution declaring a shelter emergency crisis. The funds are for shelter construction, rental assistance, programs, and youth services but Wells said a countywide coalition has not decided where to spend the funds, which will be allocated by a homeless count that took place last year. That count estimated Ceres to have 35 homeless but Wells thinks the numbers may be higher.
The council collectively shared concerns that any effort to house the homeless would result as a magnet for more. An estimated 1,200 homeless live in Modesto and 250 in Turlock.