Homeless people camp on the streets in Chinatown because they feel they have little choice. Too often, that's true.
And so the City and the police refrain from enforcing the law by making the campers move. The trouble is, after a while the encampments grow - and so do the threats to health and safety: to the campers themselves, and to everyone else who lives or works in Chinatown.
Those threats include unsanitary toileting, open drug use and sales, prostitution, unconscionable squalor, anxiety-producing overcrowding, and the inability of emergency vehicles to reach people in distress. We're approaching a crisis - people are being harmed, and someone may die. And so, after many months, the City of Salinas, with the assistance of a subcontractor, is going to begin clearing out the encampments on March 23. People who have been camping in Chinatown will be required to strike their tents between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
No one is happy about this - not the homeless campers, not us, and not the City.
Unfortunately, there's no choice: protecting health and safety is a fundamental obligation of any responsible city government.
But this action is not happening in a vacuum. The City, the County, Dorothy's Place, the Coalition of Homeless Providers, the Community Foundation of Monterey County, and other partners are working together on a real, compassionate solution to homelessness in Salinas.
In the short term, we're providing advance notice to those affected, and offering every assistance we can. You can help - please read below. For the medium and long term, we are working with our partners on a true, strategic solution. That includes:
- A health service center in Chinatown, which will meet some of the most immediate needs of the homeless: showers, restrooms, and access to health services, including housing. It will open in a couple of months. It is a pilot project for a larger health services campus in Chinatown.
- Working with landlords, developers, and others to increase the supply of housing. That includes the proposed 92-unit Mid Pen housing project in Chinatown. No matter what their other problems, everyone, including our homeless neighbors, does better when they have a secure place of their own.
- Coordination of services, addressing physical and mental health, drug addiction, employment challenges and more.
- We cannot and will not tolerate the suffering of fellow human beings who find themselves in desperate circumstances. We are grateful and hopeful to have partners who share our commitment to achieving a real, compassionate solution of health, housing, and employment.
If you feel as we do, you may want to consider involving yourself further:
- Let local government know that you value the marginalized campers in Chinatown and support their care and support toward housing. Your letter counts! Salinas City electeds and County electeds want to hear from you.
- Empower Dorothy's Place so we may empower homeless campers to downsize and become mobile. Your cash donation or gift of two-man tents, rolling carts or "off the ground" tent-cots will help. Our shipping address is 30 Soledad St., Salinas, CA 93901.
- Help us open our Mercy Center property in East Salinas as transitional housing for 12 homeless campers who wish to improve their lives. We have the property but operating a quality support program costs money. Your investment in the potential of our guests is truly a magnificent gift.
- If you're a landlord or property manager, talk with us about units that can be rented with Section 8 vouchers. We will extend a full year of support to each person we place to help them be successful tenants.
We'll keep you informed of our progress, and we invite you to stay connected as well. And if you know others who would want to be informed and involved, we hope you'll share this message, and invite them to sign up for our news by clicking the button in the sidebar.