Is there light at end of the tunnel for the homeless?

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Sean shares his journey from Utah to Stockton on Sept. 18, 2019. PHOTO BY BONES PETHOUD

A sleeping bag set up against the wall of a vacant building. An abandoned shopping cart at the edge of the sidewalk. A panhandler asking for change. These are scenes you can expect to see on the streets of Stockton any given night.

Homelessness in our city has become an epidemic.

According to a biennial census taken in May, the number of unsheltered homeless residents skyrocketed from 311 in 2017 to 921 in 2019.

Over the course of the past few years, there’s been a whole lot of talk from City Council members who claim they’re committed to finding a solution, but follow talk with no real action.

Former Stockton Mayor, Anthony Silva, once proposed portable bathrooms and lockers for the homeless. The idea never saw the light of day.

Current Mayor, Michael Tubbs, was a member of the council that instated a Homeless Task Force in 2015. Despite the founding of this organization, the city’s problem has only grown worse under Tubbs’ supervision.

Thus far, no progress has been made. 

Instead of making a conscious effort to fix this, Tubbs neglects his community’s well-being in favor of crafting his public image as “America’s youngest mayor.”

He is quick to make television appearances and speak of his plans to “reinvent Stockton,” yet the reality is our city has become more dire with him at the helm.

When will we stop hearing about Tubbs’ plans and finally see changes made?

This month, all eyes have been on Modesto and its tent city. Three-hundred tents were set up to house about 400 people. It’s not just the tents sparking interest, it’s the additional services and resources the city is offering the residents.

It is being dubbed as a model for housing the homeless. Officials in Sacramento and the Bay Area are now looking to replicate Modesto’s success. If a neighboring city can come up with an effective method, why can’t we do the same?

At a Stockton City Council meeting on Sept. 17, a contract in the amount of $90,365 was authorized with Homebase, a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to helping communities combat homelessness.

Let’s see how long it takes for city officials to put this money towards a solution that makes visible progress in our community, or if it would even be enough to. 

Say our officials decided to replicate Modesto’s model. The tents retail at $400 each, so setting a similar camp up here would cost $120,000.

It’d be a shame if nothing comes from this grant like nothing has come from the Homeless Task Force as of yet. It’d be a shame if in two years, we’ll come to learn that the homeless population has increased once again.

This issue isn’t going to be resolved overnight. We shouldn’t expect it to be. We should, however, expect our city officials to do the job they were elected to do: better Stockton. That means addressing issues head-on before they spiral out of control, as they did in this case.

What we desperately need from those in power is less talk and more action.