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Hollister
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June 14, 2021

Hollister joins national campaign to address homelessness

City council members directed staff Tuesday to look into becoming a part of the “100,000 Homes Campaign” – a nationwide effort to get homeless people off the streets and into homes.
“We have problems in our community related to the number of homeless individuals,” said Enrique Arreola, the deputy director of the San Benito County Health and Human Service Agency, at the meeting. “I believe it is our duty and obligation to support our homeless population.”
He said he heard several stories relating to homeless families living in storage sheds and in their cars as a result of being homeless in Hollister.
The director told the council it makes more sense to think of permanent housing for homeless as a better solution than previous efforts.
“The communities of Hollister and San Juan Bautista can join, at no cost, the campaign,” he said.
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez talked about his recent trip to a homeless shelter with County Supervisor Margie Barrios where he met with some of the homeless.
“Putting them in an apartment or putting them in a room will cost us $10,000 to $25,000,” he said.
But ignoring the problem could cost the city between $50,000 to $100,000 a year per homeless person in city patrol costs, emergency room care and other costs, he said.
“Finding a better answer is important for government,” he said. “I will not put our homeless on busses and send them out of town.”
Councilman Ray Friend expressed skepticism about how to pay for an endeavor like this, even though he generally supported the concept, he said.
“We can have all the money in the world, but it’s all temporary,” he said. “Their cycle never changes. If you don’t change the cycle, we can’t battle this.”
The mayor pushed back on the comments and said the city could not afford not to do it.
“It’s costing us a lot more money not doing something than getting active about what we need to do,” he said.
He said the point of the 100,000 Homes Campaign was not to get 100 percent participation or a 100 percent success rate.
“If we have 10 percent, 20 percent success, we’re doing pretty well,” he said.
In recent years, although the figures are inexact, the number of homeless in the city and county was at more than 2,000 in recent years, according to the San Benito County Homeless Coalition and Applied Survey Research, which did the study.
The mayor had invited some homeless and former homeless to come to the meeting and talk to the council.
“I really hope we can find a solution for this,” said a woman named Laura, who said she had once been homeless but that that the Homeless Coalition helped her. “We have to find a way to pull them up and help them.”
The mayor said temporary solutions were being offered by nonprofits and churches and other actors, but that it was up to everyone to pull resources together to combat the issue.
“Government, in itself, will absolutely fail,” he said. “But government opening the doors … will make the success we’re looking for.”

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