Homelessness is something that affects regular citizens, businesses and the city as a whole. The fact is most of us are only a few paychecks from being homeless. In the last year I think the city has changed the way it deals with the homeless, and frankly it's done a pretty good job. The police have done more this last year than most agencies have done in the last five.
I get asked all the time what needs to happen for the homeless to go away. The answer is simply nothing — there always will be homelessness. But the boundaries we set are important.
For one, I would love to see the city do what Concord did in its downtown — no panhandling signs would be great. I get calls all the time about panhandling downtown, so I show up and eight out of 10 times the person isn't even homeless; they have an income like General Assistance or Social Security. Most people don't know this but Martinez has a few board and cares or independent living very close to downtown, even in downtown. I know people have to eat and live but panhandling is so disruptive and makes the homeless look worse than they already do. So my advice is don't give money; buy food or bus tickets. Most of the money handed out is for beer or cigarettes.
The second thing we need to do is educate business owners who leave their dumpsters open or don't have lights up. We need to educate owners on how to be a good neighbor when it comes to homeless issues. Some business owners don't mind it but their neighbor is forced to deal with it because of owners who don't mind homeless in front of their business.
Third, I think we need to educate the liquor stores on the effect of businesses in downtown continuously selling booze to the homeless. I've seen it and it does affect others when a homeless person makes two or three trips for alcohol. Cut them off for downtown's sake.
I know this sounds like I want the homeless gone, too, but what I want is for them to respect the city they live in, and to get services and off the streets. Everyone deserves a home to call their own.