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Sacramento wants to constitutionally ban homelessness at all costs
dennis Wyatt web
Dennis Wyatt

You need to know a little bit about “Pete.”

That’s not his real name but he is real. He’s a homeless guy that has been on streets for years.

He’s been known to swing a baseball bat at people. He often crosses the street at random in heavy traffic without looking while pushing a shopping cart.

He’s well known to merchants who have tried in vain to get authorities to curtail his habit of drinking in public. But under the law, unless police see “Pete” or anyone for that matter directly swigging booze from an open container on a sidewalk they have no legal recourse.

“Pete” is a walking talking encyclopedia of “his rights” which, according to what he has told some store owners that have dealt with him is his basic right to do whatever the hell he pleases on their property.

He refuses efforts to help him get off the street.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed more than a few conversations with him. Actually they were tirades as I passed him mostly jogging to and from the gym about what he thinks of the City Council, the paper, and me personally.

“Pete” is what I call a hardcore homeless person. I’m no expert but I’d venture to say he doesn’t have a mental problem as defined as an illness. He likes to drink and he likes to do things his way. He clearly does not like following rules. It is safe to say he is not among those that have warmed up to the idea of seeking refuge in the warming center and who are being gently nudged toward taking real steps to get off the streets through the efforts of Inner City Action.

There are others like him on the streets. They simply don’t want to follow any rules except the ones they make for themselves. That said there are homeless whose mental issues led them to the streets or who have developed serious mental issues after being on the streets where they ended up due to addiction primarily to drugs. There are also “legit” homeless as defined by those who are on the streets due to bad financial decisions or horrific circumstances such as being priced out of housing or a major economic event such as loss of employment, a significant reduction in their income, or an expensive hit such as medical costs.

The reason you should know about “Pete” is the same reason why some esteem members of the California Legislature need to know about him and thousands of others of the same ilk that are homeless.

Last week Gov. Newsom — regardless of what you think of him — emerged as the adult in Sacramento among those that you could classify as having general liberal leanings.

The governor declined to embrace an advisory council’s recommendation that state voters should be asked to pass a ballot proposition that basically amends the California constitution to end homelessness. Keep in mind this is an advisory committee on the homeless that Newsom appointed.

The governor said he was not jumping on the constitutional amendment bandwagon to mandate government put an end to homelessness. One reason was it does not say how you do it and the other is the fact it is akin to writing a blank check.

Newsom is quoted as saying, “I’m not naive. This is not black and white, this is tough stuff, this is complicated.”

Newsom is hopeful efforts underway by a small numbers of cities and counties — Ceres included — can provide some answers. In other words, he doesn’t favor imposing a one-size-fits-all-mandate by state decree because as an adult he knows that doesn’t work.

Newsom, however, doesn’t control the California Legislature.

Not saying he’s a prophet, but that is exactly why Manteca Councilman Gary Singh has been telling detractors of the City Council’s efforts to address homeless issues in Manteca that if the city does not come up with a way that they can deal with the problem and in a manner that works for the community, the state eventually will mandate a solution from Sacramento.

And given some of the incredibly myopic views of some in Sacramento, if that happens it will create a major disaster of a problem that is already reaching epic proportions.

Consider for a moment the comments by two legislators from San Francisco that apparently has a higher class of homeless than elsewhere in the state.

Associated Press quoted Assemblyman David Chiu as saying: “I think given the intensity of the homelessness crisis, we can no longer think of what we do in this area as voluntary. We have to act and need to ensure that every county and city in the state is held accountable.”

You will notice that Chiu said nothing about holding the state accountable. The Legislature is the only body that can address root causes of homelessness such as the ability to commit the mentally ill, providing mental hospitals, relaxing costly housing regulations, and take draconian steps to punish jurisdictions that ship their homeless to other jurisdictions.

One must wonder how Chiu would feel about a constitutional mandate to end crime that is passed without saying how you would do it and how one would fund it while at the same time putting the burden on cities and counties. He’s probably like it as it would absolve the state of all responsibility and dismiss the idea they play a role in how crime plays out.

Also quoted by AP was State Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, who reminded us all “we also need to remember that the root cause of homelessness is our severe housing shortage.”

Really? It has nothing to do with mental illness, substance abuse, addiction, lack of good paying jobs for those with minimal skills, or people who simply don’t want to compromise?

As for the housing issue, I’m sure Weiner is not sharing his domicile with another family or renting rooms out as is the case in a growing number of California households.

Those people in such living arrangements — particularly those that are struggling to remain sheltered — compromise and play by someone else’s rules when need be.

Keep in mind we have been told for a decade or more on an annual basis that we are coming up hundreds of thousands of more housing units short each year. Yet the homeless number in California is pegged at 134,278 by the federal Housing & Urban Development agency and not several million.

While housing is an issue, the fact millions are making do that can’t swing rent on their own might suggest to a reasonable person that isn’t playing to their base that the root cause of homelessness is not the state’s “severe” housing shortage.

The most amazing part of the advisory committee’s recommendation is such a mandate to address homelessness would give cities and counties only a year to find solutions.

This comes from a state government that told us in 2008 if voters approved a $9 billion bond that the high-speed rail segment between Merced and Burbank would be up and running by 2022.

One could argue high-speed rail has a whole lot less moving parts and variables than the homeless issue.

It’s funny that the state can’t meet a deadline to do something that’s fairly straightforward but they can mandate in clear conscious a year deadline to solve an issue that has bedeviled mankind since the dawn of civilization.

One final note: if Chiu and Weiner believe local governments have all the answers then why didn’t they resolve the homeless problem in San Francisco when they were serving as members of the city-county Board of Supervisors?

There must be something about being inside the State Capitol that compromises the flow of oxygen to the brain that affects judgment and reasoning.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.