Is Gilroy the county homeless capital?

Letter to the Editor,

When I moved to Gilroy, it was known as the Garlic Capital of the World. What I didn’t know is that it would become the per capita Homeless Capital of Santa Clara County. It appears we are starting the buildup of demand that requires more infrastructure and services for homeless. A reasonable response is that we should build support systems for that demand, and then the system grows on its own and never goes away.

Please know that a homeless infrastructure is already being built with low-income housing that can become Section 8 housing, free transportation and more. Another factor is that our police chief has requested funds for an officer and/or a social worker who deals only with homeless issues, but there is no funding for such an officer. This means that Gilroy is growing a homeless population and has no officers to deal with the issues created by this population.

One possibility is for Gilroy to pay more taxes to accommodate more police to deal with homeless issues. Another possibility is for Gilroy to adopt the same aggressive policies and practices used by more affluent cities to reduce the likelihood that a homeless person will reside here, and having a target number of homeless in mind. So what is a reasonable homeless population target? There are 7,394 homeless in Santa Clara County, 1,918,000 people in Santa Clara County and 48,821 people in Gilroy, so our fair share should be 188 homeless, instead of the 722 we currently have.

This means we should limit services to accommodate to only 188 homeless using business licenses, permits and such. With only 188, Gilroy can provide a higher quality of care for those who are here rather than overburden our services. Our police department is overworked as it is. Police officers are working overtime, and they are underappreciated for that effort. Adding a burden to their workload only endangers our community. According to the homeless survey, one in four homeless people will spend a night in jail next year. If the homeless population is reduced by 500, that will remove 125 arrests needed to be made by our GPD, and Gilroy will be a better community for it.

I don’t have all of the answers, but clearly something can be done, to be more proactive with our city-wide policies. Elected officials who support expanding services should be removed from office. Some churches offer free meals, and they should be responsible for the human waste created by those free meals, if it is deposited around the community. Events to feed the homeless should require a permit, and that permit should require facilities.

Think about it. Would you go to a Gilroy Garlic Festival if it didn’t have any toilets available? This is a health and safety issue. Like you, I have supported some homeless support organizations that include the Second Harvest Food Bank. That organization supports several others that have direct contact with the elderly, disabled, meals on wheels and the homeless.

I don’t like seeing anyone go hungry, but that is not the point. The point is right-sizing our efforts to match our community’s size and capacity. Gilroy should not be a dumping ground for other city’s homeless.

Cheri Sarkur

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