The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Lucile Meinhardt in response to an opinion shared on this website by Manny Soliz Jr regarding the homeless policy being pushed forward by the Antioch City Council.
Homelessness has been in our community for many years, and finally our current council is doing something about it. I attended nearly all of the public meetings of the Homeless Encampment Task Force. The main lesson learned from extensive information gathering was that housing first is the way to go to correct the problem. That is the potential of using Antioch motel/hotel rooms for transitional housing, getting people who want off the streets into an environment where they don’t have to worry about where they will sleep, how they will get food, and many other challenges, thus allowing them to get wrap-around services to help with any medical or psychiatric issues, leading to jobs and permanent housing.
Some will need a few months, others longer. When one person or couple or family moves along, then another comes in, thus serving more than the 32 original potential occupants of the Executive Inn over the course of a year. Data show that 97% of formerly homeless who get into permanent housing stay there.
Council candidate Manny Soliz, you ask why place a transitional shelter near a crime corridor? Why place two schools there? If it is okay for schools, it is okay for individuals needing housing. Even though a school committee opposed the location on Friday night, the Task Force is actually working with the Rocketship School Director. He has confirmed school support for any children that may be housed in the hotel or in the trailers which could also be parked there. Golden Hills next door provides meals M-F already.
The Executive Inn is already involved in working with the county providing crisis housing for individuals and families and children. The owners know what is involved and would be great partners for the plan.
The council is working with county and state officials, and local entities including Sutter Hospital, Healthrite 360 , Loaves and Fishes, Love Never Fails, and Shelter Inc, as well as LaVonna Martin, Director of County Homeless Services. County and state have been working on the problem a long time, but so far we have not seen much change here in East County.
We – the citizens of Antioch – need to step in and provide help now. Concomitantly, once we proceed, we attract further support and funding from multiple sources.
When considering the potential costs, first consider what our current methods of dealing with homelessness costs us: at least one million dollars in police costs incurred while moving encampments, more from code enforcement clean-ups, costs to the fire district putting out conflagrations started by cooking or warming fires, hospital costs, just for a start. The feasibility study will help us know more accurately the costs of the project, the source of wrap-around services, and what supportive funding we can expect from other sources. The RFP is purely to find out if any other motel/hotels in Antioch are interested as well in participating.
In closing, my spouse runs along the river almost daily. Over time he has met a number of homeless folks whom he sees and converses with over and over. In particular there was one very nice couple who were on a list for housing, trying to get their lives together, but were stuck without a home for seven years, having to move their neat encampment frequently. A month or so ago, he realized he had not seen them in a long while and he was worried about them. When the county bought up the available rooms at Pittsburg’s Motel 6, they were able to accept East County homeless who were not needing confinement because of the pandemic. It turns out this couple were able to move into one of the rooms. In a short time, he has obtained a job, they have bought a car, and they are to move into permanent housing soon. They are in the video showing current Council Member Lamar Thorpe and Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts at the Motel 6. My spouse was very happy for the couple and their friendly dog.
The Executive Inn plan gives hope to not only our homeless but also all of us in Antioch for the future of our city.
Antioch resident and retired librarian