The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Ken Turnage II, an Antioch resident and business owner in the City.
The Homeless situation in Antioch is out of hand! There are countless groups trying to help and enable them to continue their way of existence. The City is throwing money at it and creating a six figure salaried job to try and manage it before there was even a candidate for the position (unless someone had a friend in mind). The Homeless are creating damage and blight at almost every vacant space or business available. The trail of filth throughout the City is beginning to look like a permanent stain that will never scrub off!
Before you think this is just another rant about Homeless, it’s not!
There is actually an idea that can be a win-win for everyone, if the City Officials truly want to make things better for all of their citizens. So please, do not start with a knee jerk reaction and instead process all the information. Plus keep in mind this an overview and not all items are fully detailed.
The City owns a property downtown that is just over 3 acres, it’s the Old Lumber Site or AKA “The Yard”. This property was a hot topic of debate a few years ago, when the City wanted develop condos on the property. The residents did not want them because they would block the view and proposed a community park/amphitheater. Well neither one has happened and the property sits vacant and unused.
This is property is already set with many improvements that are needed. There are multiple driveways cut into the curb system. There are sewer and water laterals already tied into the City infrastructure. The PG&E transformer does have capability for use if power is needed. Oh and did I mention its over 3 acres?
Here is the process.
There is more than enough room for a dumpster to be provided for their generated debris and multiple access points for pick up and drop off when it’s full. There is easy access for porta potty’s to be placed and easily accessible to for them to be serviced. The amount of space needed for these items would now bring the property down to 3 acres of land that can be divided up just like you would for camp sites at our Campgrounds and National Parks. Now we have debris collection, communal bathrooms to keep fecal matter off our streets and spaces allocated for the lifestyle they are currently living and this can all be set up and done in under one weeks time.
Now that the spaces are made the homeless can sign up for a space and have one assigned to them. It can be a first come first serve basis. The area can also be divided to where some spaces are animal friendly since so many have companion animals. Yes of course there will need to be rules developed for this site and potentially a curfew but this would not be a problem for the people that are truly looking for a hand up.
With having the vast majority of the homeless congregated in one area we can then help the homeless coordinator concentrate the efforts and minimize needed resources and maximize the use of the resources. We have countless church groups, individuals, other organizations and also County/City funds being directed at this issue. Now they can legitimately coordinate their efforts and resources to maximize the affects of relief. The coordinator could actually develop a schedule for the different groups for which days they can provide their services.
Having the spaces in use, with proper planning the spaces were sized to fit the tiny homes which can be built back to back and side by side over time. If done correctly this can be used as a training for unemployed homeless that are looking to return to work force by learning a valued and needed trades. If laid out properly the location of the porta potty’s is directly above or adjacent to the City sewer and water laterals. Then a communal multi-purpose bathroom can be constructed. It can have showers, toilets and urinals. This can easily be constructed and also used as training for people to re-enter the work force once again. The cost for a bathroom like this would be in the range of $500k which ironically is close to the amount of money the Council has already set aside for homeless issues from Measure W generated funds.
So we have developed an area where the Homeless can congregate and receive the resources to give them the hand up needed to reestablish themselves into being a productive part of society.
If the advocates are correct and all of our homeless want a true hand up and the problem is no resources then this should go a long way in satisfying it. The positive side effects for the community should be, cleaner streets, no homeless in the shopping centers making it uncomfortable for taxpaying Citizens to shop, less crime because they don’t need to steal due to being provided for, less damage to businesses and personal property to name just a few. With all these advantages it then adds even more, our Police Department will be responding to less calls for service on these topics, allowing them to focus on other crimes in Antioch. Our Code Enforcement will have a significant drop in homeless related issues because they will be centralized under the coordinator position.
Having cleaner streets, police freed up to do what police should do, code enforcement handling the cases that need to be handled, we as an entire city will benefit in multiple fold! From the day to day citizen to the largest stores and back to the small businesses that run our nation!
I am not naïve and think this is the cure or absolute solution, but I am logical enough to know that this will separate the homeless that truly want help and the ones that just want to get by and get high. Then we can address the later accordingly and help the ones that want to be part of society again.
This can be done, it can be done with the money already put aside by the city. Is it a perfect plan, no, but it’s a lot better than doing nothing which is what our city is currently doing.
Local business owner and resident,
Ken Turnage II