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Redding Restart: Addressing Homelessness

by Rodney LaFrance & Jess Luoma

The first Friday of March 2023, Redding Restart held its first forum on homeless awareness, which was very well attended. There were around five hundred folks of all ages representing our community. The forum was held at the Civic Center here in Redding. Before I move on, mark your calendar so as not to miss the next forum that will be held on April 14, 8am-12pm. It’s important for us to attend these events as we move forward to be informed of opportunities to be involved.

Back to this first event; as I said it was not only well attended, but was very well organized. Jonathan Anderson of The Good News Rescue Mission did a tremendous job putting together this event. He brought in a team of folks with a wealth of knowledge and years of experience - on hand experience at that.

The forum opened with a wonderful heartfelt testimony of a middle age man who was restored back to his family after years of addiction, jail time, and homelessness. He received a standing ovation from all for his new life which he shared. I’m sorry that I forget his name.

One of the opening words that was spoken by Justin Wandro, who works for the Mission was that “we must challenge ourselves to think differently”. His talk was inspirational. If you get a chance, look up his talk. This is something that Les Reading has been talking about for some time now; changing the cultures.

During our time together, there were two short documentary videos of the work that is already been done in the camps. One was of the medical work that is happening currently with the Hope Van and Dr. Patton. He is not only dedicated to his work, but he is building relationships with those who are homeless. Watch the video below.

There were a variety of agencies represented on a panel. They talked about their further plans and answered questions that were asked by the attendees when they registered to be at the forum. They answered as many questions as possible that were relevant to those who were on the panel.

Jo Campbell is the CEO of Hill Country Health & Wellness Center. Her talk was personal, informative & inspiring as she shared about Hill Country’s whole person care approach and how they address mental health among the homeless, addicted & marginalized. She spoke about how Shasta County is not a silo & there is an incredible amount of collaboration and teamwork across systems and organizations.

"The homeless are our people, many grew up here and have suffered from trauma. Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) scores are what we use as indicators of specific physical, mental & emotional trajectories. Many of those living on the streets have high ACE scores," she explains.

Bill Schueller is the chief of the police department here in Redding. Bill shared about the Crisis Intervention Response Team. The CIRT has been working in the homeless communities, helping individuals and making relationships. This has been a game changer here in the City. Watch the video below.

Schueller answered tough questions about the role of law enforcement, camping citations, Boise v. Wade, "catch and release," and the lack of programs and space in our County Jail.

Christine Cage is the Director of The Bridgeway Inn, a transitional housing project and also founder of No Boundaries. She spoke of the need for unity, as they all did. She shared that it would be good if the City could restore some of unused or broken down buildings that are located in our city-- beautify Redding & provide beds for the many who need them.

When asked what the difference between those who want housing and those who don't, she said, "Everyone does, they just may not know it at the time. When they are accustomed to life on the streets, but come to the motel, we plant that seed & if they don't stay they always come back."

Doctor Doug McMullin, representing Shasta Community Health Center, shared about the medical work that the Hope Van is doing with the homeless. He spoke about how accountability and compassion are the two wings on a bird needed to take flight in working with those who struggle with addictions.

"The average life expectancy of a homeless person is 47 years old. By getting them into housing and into safety, we add 20 years to their lives. Recovery and safety [housing] go hand in hand," McMullin said.

Each one of the panel members mentioned that they have been working together for the best interest of all our community, which the homeless are very much a part of. They agree that they need to continue the communication and collaboration so that they can move forward together.

Tom Wolf, the co-founder of the California Peace Coaltion, was the final and featured speaker of the forum. He had an amazing testimony as well. Tom understands recovery and homelessness, because he lived both of these. He has dedicated his life to both research and studying what has worked and what hasn’t worked over the years. He brought out some points that we are living in different times and that we need to address the homeless issue and the housing issue in new ways. His voice is beginning to be heard beyond the borders of California.

"Don't let ideology get in the way of real solutions," he emphasized as he described how policies and politics can create division in caring for the addict and providing safety and housing.

Personally I’m looking forward to the future when we hear the voices of the services that are already in place and for those who have new and creative ideas for the future of creating housing (really homes) for all. This is only the beginning which is great start. There are more pieces of the pie that need to come together. For example.. new ways of doing rehab and learning from those who have successful models of housing. So, as we move forward together, communication and unity are key factors for the common good of all. Our hope for the future is to see more of local churches become more involved. It would also be good to have our city council members there to hear the voices of the community. Faith based and secular services are both needed.

All in all, Redding Restart went over very well and hopefully people walked away looking for ways to be involved.

The following are the websites for a couple of the agencies agencies who were represented at the forum and a site for the next forum. Register here.


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