Letters: Writer responds to Antioch police “untruths” about homeless issues

Dear Editor:

In order to combat untruths from both the Antioch Police Officers Association and from the election campaign of Antioch’s current mayor, I offer the following facts relating to homeless issues in Antioch, particularly with respect to the proposal that the city convert to Executive Inn on 18th Street near Cavallo to transitional homeless housing.

  1. A city-wide survey of Antioch residents indicated that homelessness was among the top issues of concern in the city. The city declared homelessness to be a crisis last year.
  2. The Antioch City Council that was seated after 2018 elections voted to appoint an Ad Hoc Committee to study homeless encampments.
  3. The Homeless Encampment Ad Hoc Committee composed of Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts and Councilman Lamar Thorpe began their research, visiting encampments and talking with homeless residents. They set up study sessions a.) to explore the impact and cost of homelessness on existing city services, businesses, AUSD, local hospitals, and BART; b.) to learn about the work of Contra Costa County Health, Housing and Homeless Services and community groups that serve the homeless; c.) to get information on programs that have had successes in other cities; and d.) to hear from homeless residents themselves and, very poignantly, from city leaders who themselves endured periods of homelessness. (These sessions were open to everyone; I attended nearly all of them.)
  4. The most obvious solutions for Antioch that came out of these studies were: a.) the need to coordinate the various organizations helping homeless in Antioch, thus the need for a city coordinator position; b.) the need for more drug abuse and mental health resources for homeless in Eastern Contra Costa; and c.) housing first is the most successful and least costly way to address homeless issues. Temporary stop gap solutions considered in Antioch included designated parking areas for safe overnight sleeping for homeless with cars or RVs, and managed camp sites.
  5. Antioch received five FEMA trailers from the state and began the process of finding a place to put them to house up to five people in each, most likely families.
  6. Ad Hoc committee member Thorpe met with the Executive Inn owners to discuss a bridge housing proposal and they were open to it. Currently the inn works with the county providing crisis housing to individuals and families with children. Golden Hills Community Church currently feeds homeless next door weekday evenings.
  7. Motts and Thorpe have proposed the city work with the motel to provide transitional or bridge housing to homeless. There are 32 rooms plus places to put the five trailers. The project would happen only with wraparound services such as meals, security, custodial, as well as essential behavioral health and health care services through other agencies and non-profits including COC, Sutter Health, Love Never Fails, Shelter Inc, similar to what the county is doing with Motel 6 in Pittsburg. These services help to incur a positive outcome. It is not permanent housing. It is a step towards permanent housing. Residents receive any needed mental health and/or addiction services as they recover from life on the streets, find employment, and move on to permanent housing elsewhere. The lease cost is approximately one million per year, about what the city spends now breaking up homeless encampments. Committing to and proceeding with the project means Antioch would likely attract financial support from other sources including the state. The council has voted to pursue a feasibility study. Cities such as Livermore and Santa Clara are going forward with similar proposals.
  8. The only school within a quarter mile of the Executive Inn, Rocketship Charter School on Cavallo Rd., has welcomed any children from families that would move in there.
  9. Some in the city say we should rely on the county and the state for homeless services. We have, but that has not got us very far. Rather we need to work with the county and the state. Those opposing the proposal have offered nothing in its place.
  10. Both the Antioch Police Officers Association and Mayor Sean Wright have claimed the Executive Inn is one quarter mile from four Antioch schools and the Antioch Youth Sports Complex. This is not true. There is only the one I named above, Rocketship. The next nearest school, Kimball Elementary, is one half mile away. The sports complex is over a mile and a half away. Antioch Middle School is seven tenths of a mile away, and the high school is a full mile away. Children of the newly housed families would not have too far to go. Also, the APOA said it was permanent housing. It is not.
  11. The motel would not be housing homeless, because with a place to live, the people are no longer homeless.

Homelessness is Antioch’s most pressing issue right now. We need to elect leaders who are actually addressing the issue with very doable solutions. Lamar Thorpe for Mayor, Joy Motts in District One are obvious choices, though other candidates may support the transitional housing plan. Nichole Gardner of the non-profit Fighting for the Homeless in Antioch is the best candidate in District Three, as Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock voted against the proposal. Councilwoman Monica Wilson in District Four supports the proposal.

Lucy Meinhardt


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