VIDEO: Fraternity goes homeless to help the real homeless
by Gene Beley, CVBT Correspondent

April 17, 2017 9:02pm
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•  Raises more than $10,000 in Stockton

•  “The homeless in the streets are growing and growing”

•  With exclusive video and photos contrasting real homeless shelters to the college students’ efforts

Tents of the homeless under the Highway 4 Crosstown Freeway in Stockton

(Photo by Gene Beley)
Tents of the homeless line a street near downtown Stockton

(Photo by Gene Beley)
Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs

(Photo by Gene Beley)

This story is reposted from April 16 due to a glitch in sending it to all subscribers.)

Thousands who have been to the DMV office in Stockton cannot miss seeing the homeless encampment beneath the Highway 4 bridge. But few venture under the bridge and turn into the next few side streets that comprise a very different population of the community – people who live in tents, cars, and camper truck vehicles.

For those who do educate themselves by looking there, they may see children playing in the street. At 411 South Harrison you can also see the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless and St. Mary’s Dining Room that feeds the homeless. It is an education everyone should get to begin to understand the growing problem as rents and prices of homes escalate, along with other complex factors.

University of the Pacific’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity promoted awareness of this problem by living in shelters made out of boxes and tarps on campus for three days. In the two videos below, you can compare their efforts with the real deal where at least one of the homeless even used wood to strengthen his tent against the elements.

The college students relied on others to provide them food, water, and the basics of life as they tried to see what it would be like living in a homeless camp. Of course, it is not the same as living under a freeway overpass.

At the Pacific fundraiser event staged by the same Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, speakers told what is being done now and what they hoped can be done very soon to get more action on the problem.

In all this year’s event raised more than $10,000 to help the city’s homeless.

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs told the event guests there is a very important meeting May 15 to address this problem. Both the county government and Stockton City Council will be meeting together to discuss the homeless issue. He said he hopes many citizens will attend to pressure the five county supervisors and the rest of the City Council to act and make it a priority.

Jon Mendleson from the organization Ready-to-Work, San Joaquin, said his group is new and unique. “We are running a transitional housing program that will link the homeless that have been involved in the criminal justice system that becomes a barrier to employment,” he said. “This means to secure an apartment with a deposit and first month’s rent, because if you’re coming off the street, how are you going to get an apartment if you can’t afford the deposit and first month’s rent?”

He said his clients need employment because the two ways to assure self sufficiency are housing stability and a means to support themselves through income.

Who are the Homeless?

“In our surveys we found two-thirds of the folks who are out on the streets right now in San Joaquin County have been there for more than a year,” said Mr. Mendleson. “This is an entrenched problem. The folks didn’t show up there overnight. That means getting them off the street is going to take a real commitment from real individuals and local leadership in government.”

He added that 31 percent of the homeless self-reported that they have a mental health issue.

The Economics of It

“A community is stronger and more economically viable if your residents are in housing,” said Mr. Mendleson. “This is not only because of the way it looks but because you have people contributing to your local economy.”

But he said there are a lot of barriers to those living in the encampments.

“How are you going to go to a landlord and get them to rent to you if you don’t have a history of housing? One solution is what we call ‘Housing First.’ For a long time, people felt these people had to be drug tested and be sober or make them agree to participate in mental health services b before they go into housing. Getting people into housing before pre-conditions has been proven to be not only the fastest way to end homelessness but the most cost-effective,” he said.

“To provide housing in an apartment for a year can cost $8,000-$10,000 locally. Doing that in a jail will cost upwards of $50,000 a year,” Mr. Mendleson said. “Heaven help you if you take the same person on the streets to a hospital in an ambulance. That can cost society hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. We’re talking about making investments not only in individuals but also in the community. We have proof in our community that this approach works.”

Mr. Mendleson said only about 6 percent of the homeless are military veterans. “That’s down by about half from our last count,” he said. “The reason is our federal government and our local organizations made a commitment to these people. It shows if you make a commitment to a population, you can make a difference, but it takes time.” He said the secret is to pressure the politicians at all levels of government.

Adam Cheshire, the CEO of Stockton Shelter for the Homeless, said this is the largest homeless shelter in San Joaquin County and one of the largest in the state. “We average 350 people a night. On rainy nights, it jumps to 400 or more,” he said.

Mr. Cheshire explained that what his organization does is a little different. He said they don’t tailor their program to just single mothers or the mentally ill. They do it all. “That can make it difficult and extremely challenging sometimes but it means we have multiple programs going on all at once. We find a way to bring them all in,” he said.

Mr. Cheshire said they have 152 beds for single males and throw more mats on the floor when needed.

They have a day shelter from 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. At night they open the day shelter for nighttime use. This year they also used the day shelter for single women for the first time.

“The homeless in the streets are growing and growing,” he said. “We have seen a huge influx of single women come in for complicated reasons.

“We have a separate family shelter on our campus for anyone with children. We have some single dads, but most are single moms and their kids -- about 150 people per night. They get separate family rooms, which is a little different than the single male program.”

Mr. Mendleson said there are two transitional housing programs. One is emergency shelter if you lose your job, housing or something happened where you find yourself without a home. “We’re the safety emergency net for the community,” he said. “Transitional housing is different because, when you enter into that program, you agree to certain things and get intensive care management services. You will be in this program for six months or longer transitioning out of homelessness.

Jason Roth, CEO of Stockton-based marketing company Tuleburg, which helped financially sponsor the fund raising event at UOP, said society as a whole has failed to ignore the less fortunate. “For most people, you say, ‘Oh, when I see someone on the side of the road, I give them a quarter.’ But the responsibility is for everybody to do more because, honestly, we’re never doing enough,” he said.

“It’s comforting to know that, as a company, we are in a city that has a mayor who is dedicated to changing the fabric of Stockton society and is committed to changing that fundamental flaw in Stockton -- and all over the country and the world.”

University of Pacific students go homeless for raising money for the real homeless in Stockton, CA:

University of Pacific students go homeless for raising money for the real homeless in Stockton, CA from Gene Beley on Vimeo.

Homeless Awareness fund raiser and awareness event hosted by Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at U.O.P.—Part II video

Homeless Awareness fund raiser and awareness event hosted by Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at U.O.P.—Part II video from Gene Beley on Vimeo.

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Comments on this story

Martha Esch 4/18/17 7:24 PM (
Thanks for bringing more attention to this ongoing and still growing societal problem.

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