Stockton’s homeless seek new chances

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In recent years, Stockton’s homeless problem has increased as inflation gets worse and the cost of living goes up.

There are individuals within homeless communities who are trying to better their lives, and feel as though Stockton could be doing more for them.

“I’ve been homeless off and on for about 5 or 6 years, pretty much since my daughter was born,” said Mario Garcia, 33. 

Garcia thinks there is only so much a city can do and it is the responsibility of the individual to make ends meet; but he soon realized there is more to be done to help people such as himself. 

“I’m just trying to get back on track and get a full-time job so that I don’t have to be homeless anymore and figure out where my next meal is coming from and keep sleeping in hospitals and gas stations,” said Garcia. 

Stockton officials are doing their part to aid the homeless communities in Stockton by trying to find a solution to the epidemic.

Stockton, under its new mayor, Michael Tubbs, has taken the issue more seriously than in past years due to the recent growth in homelessness. 

In trying to create solutions, Stockton has begun hiring homeless people to pick up trash around the city for minimum wage. 

The Stockton City Council approved a resolution on Aug. 21 to partner with Caltrans and local nonprofit Ready to Work and offer jobs to the city’s homeless population to clean up litter. The program was modeled after a similar project in Bakersfield, according to city council documents.

“I didn’t think that would ever happen here, but I’m really glad it is and that I know now; I would have been the first one in line to get my life back together,” said Garcia. “They should do more collaborative stuff like that in Stockton instead of just building more shelters and soup kitchens.” 

According to CBS, the city of San Jose has also begun paying homeless people minimum wage  to pick up trash around the city in effort to create jobs, decrease pollution, and help its homeless epidemic.

There are 47 homeless shelters throughout the city of Stockton, all of which are overflowing with men, women, and children with no other place to go.

The homeless epidemic is not coming from a lack of shelters, but rather a lack of people being able to get accepted into jobs under their current conditions.

“I got locked up a few years back for robbery, and ever since I got out I’ve had nowhere to go,” said Jerry Zahniser, 40. “No place will hire me because I’m not presentable and I’ve got a criminal record.”

Zahniser thinks that the job opportunities Stockton is presenting for the homeless is great, and hopes there will be more like it.

“It’s be great if I could scrape together enough money to get back to my family in Oklahoma so I can get my life back together,” said Zahniser.

Homelessness has become an epidemic in Stockton and the broader San Joaquin County area. There were 1,552 people who are homeless in the county in 2017, according to the county’s 2017 Point-in-Time Count report. 

Also — according to The Record, San Joaquin County was awarded $4.4 million by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to continue aiding homelessness, and Stockton plans on using this money to open more homeless shelters.

Creating jobs in the area will be the right step forward for Stockton to take in decreasing homelessness.