Community Board: Shelter won’t solve all homeless issues

A look inside on of many shelters used by the homeless along the river bed.

It’s become clear that the homeless population in Hollister is only growing, and local officials are making a big mistake if they believe a new homeless shelter will completely solve the problem.

The truth is a new homeless shelter, planned for a building on San Felipe Road just outside of the downtown area, won’t wholly solve the complicated issue of homelessness in Hollister and San Benito County. The population has grown over the years and, in the past year or two, appears to have spiked quite a bit more.

Part of the problem is simple economics in a rural, relatively poor county. But perhaps even more significant are population shifts from community to community, as many of the local homeless have found their way to Hollister from neighboring cities where officials are less concerned about shipping them out of town.

City and county officials are wise to build a permanent homeless shelter because it’s needed as one step in the right direction. A homeless shelter will provide an opportunity, whether the homeless residents are willing to take it or not, for a turnaround in life. It will provide the needed services and necessities, if people are willing to change their habits and get on a straight path.

The reality is that mental illness and addiction issues almost always intertwine with those in the homeless population. Sure, there are some people who might just fall on really hard luck, but the vast majority of homeless residents suffer from complicated psychological issues that prevent them from functioning normally.

It begs the question of whether the series of complaints at public meetings by Marci Huston, who owns the Garden Mart on San Felipe Road where many homeless residents have come to congregate, should get shoved aside under the premise that a new homeless shelter will be built in the next couple of years to solve her problems.

The answer is no, of course. City council and county board officials have listened to Huston’s problems, but they don’t appear serious about solving them outside of the future shelter. It’s a shame because this complicated issue deserves more than a one-pronged approach, and local government agencies shouldn’t ignore that the solution involves more than providing a shelter.

There should be, on the other hand, a more comprehensive plan that involves direction on how local agencies and police should interact with local homeless residents to urge them on the right path while on the streets or in a shelter.

Community Insight Board members include Jae Eade, Cesar Flores, Frankie Gallagher, Gordon Machado and Brenda Weatherly. Editor Kollin Kosmicki moderates the discussions and writes the pieces. For more views from the board, go to SanBenitoCountyToday.com.

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