Council approves homeless shelter law
Advocates deabate capacity, security issues
by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator
Nov 21, 2012 | 1792 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Patterson resident Craig Tossetti helps paint a door on Oct. 6, assisting the group Helping Others Sleep Tonight as it seeks to turn a former rest home at Fourth and C streets into a permanent homeless shelter. The Patterson City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 20, unanimously approved a homeless shelter ordinance that provides guidelines for the future shelter despite protests from H.O.S.T. board members about aspects of the new law.--Photo by Jonathan Partridge/Patterson Irrigator
Patterson resident Craig Tossetti helps paint a door on Oct. 6, assisting the group Helping Others Sleep Tonight as it seeks to turn a former rest home at Fourth and C streets into a permanent homeless shelter. The Patterson City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 20, unanimously approved a homeless shelter ordinance that provides guidelines for the future shelter despite protests from H.O.S.T. board members about aspects of the new law.--Photo by Jonathan Partridge/Patterson Irrigator
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The City Council voted 4-0 Tuesday, Nov. 20 in favor of an ordinance setting the ground rules for a local homeless shelter. However, homeless advocates say the law's security components are too stringent and the zoning area where shelters will be allowed is too tight.

Councilman Larry Buehner, who owns property near Helping Others Sleep Tonight’s proposed homeless shelter on South Fourth and C streets, recused himself from the vote.

Advocates indicated that the requirement of a security guard was difficult to adhere to because of cost. They also said the area the ordinance designated for shelter space — which strictly covers H.O.S.T.'s planned shelter — was not adequate to meet the city’s needs.

State law requires municipalities to provide an ordinance governing homeless shelters, designating an area of town where a homeless shelter can be placed when a city changes its general plan’s housing element. The housing element is the portion of the plan that seeks to ensure housing for all income levels, according to city planner Joel Andrews.

An area in the southern central part of Patterson that contains homes but is zoned for industrial development was set as a place for homeless shelters in a previous draft of the ordinance. That area included H.O.S.T.’s shelter, which is being built in the former Foothill Manor rest home at 405 S. Fourth St. But the final version of the ordinance only designated shelter space at the Foothill Manor property.

H.O.S.T. past president and City Council candidate Dennis McCord told the council Tuesday that the city was leaving itself open for a lawsuit because the ordinance did not zone a larger area for shelters. He warned that the legal advocacy group California Rural Legal Assistance has sued cities that were not compliant with the state law in the past.

Councilwoman Annette Smith said the ordinance complied with state law and said she took offense to the implication that that the city could be sued. If the need arose in the future for another shelter, a zone could be established elsewhere in the city, she said.

Councilwoman Deborah Novelli said the problem was that designating one basic neighborhood in town could result in multiple shelters being placed in one area.

“There are families that live there, too,” she said of residents who lived in the industrial neighborhood.

Kurt Gross, another H.O.S.T. board member, questioned the ordinance’s requirement that a security guard be present when homeless guests were being checked in for the night, asking for more flexibility in the ordinance.

“We’ve dealt with this without security in the past,” Gross said, referencing temporary winter facilities the group has operated for three years.

Mayor Luis Molina said there needed to be someone focused strictly on security during the check-in process.

“There needs to be a person there for the safety of staff and those that are waiting for intake,” he said.

Councilman Dominic Farinha agreed.

“You have people coming in, staff and citizens in the street,” he said. “(Security’s) sole responsibility is the safety of everyone.”

Gross told the council that volunteers were working on getting security guard licenses. Smith said that Patterson Police Chief Tori Hughes would review any security plan that H.O.S.T. submitted to the city.

• Contact Nick Rappley at 892-6187, or nick@pattersonirrigator.com.

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