Even with the joyous holiday spirit all around, I still hear from people every day complaining about transients in our community. People are tired of transients loitering in our parks, sleeping on private property, littering in our creeks and waterways, panhandling, and shoplifting. People are also tired of the thefts and violence by transients in our community. Although kind-hearted community members think they are helping by giving handouts to transients, in reality their handouts are contributing to these problems.
Now, let me start by saying that being homeless is not a crime—not even close. Especially at Christmas, we need to do all we can to help those less fortunate than ourselves. I understand why generous people give money to people on the street. I applaud the idea of helping those who are less fortunate. But if you really want to help, many wonderful non-profit organizations are working hard this holiday season to get people back on their feet—and they could put your money to good use.
Unfortunately, giving money to transients does not help our community. Transients are people who choose a nomadic lifestyle that often includes using alcohol and illicit drugs. Transients use handouts intended for food and shelter to buy drugs and alcohol; and once they are under the influence, they commit crimes such as panhandling, burglary, and assault—and they put a strain our community resources.
The more people give to transients, the more they encourage the problems that come with this lifestyle. This translates into more violence in our city, and more police time spent breaking up fights and arresting transients for their crimes.
If you love our community and want to make it a better place, please stop providing handouts to transients who will simply use the money to buy alcohol, methamphetamine, or other drugs. The use of alcohol and drugs leads to violence. If transients can’t afford alcohol and drugs, our community will be safer.
Instead of handing out money, please consider giving your donations to the agencies that provide direct services to the homeless. This will assure that your dollars are spent on assistance, not alcohol and drugs.
One worthy organization that needs donations this time of year is the Ukiah Valley Christmas Effort. They help local families by providing toys and a nutritious holiday meal to those in need this Christmas.
You can send donations to the Ukiah Valley Christmas Effort at P.O. Box 801, Ukiah, CA 95482. Contact the Ukiah Valley Christmas Effort through their Facebook page or by getting in touch with President Sheryl Graves at (707) 272-9627 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another great place to donate locally is to the Ukiah Food Bank. The Ukiah Daily Journal and our local food bank are in the midst of their annual fund drive to ensure the food bank has the resources it needs to deliver food to those who would otherwise go hungry in our community.
By donating now you help assure the food bank can provide food throughout the entire year. Donations can be made by mailing or dropping off a check to the Ukiah Daily Journal Office at 617 S. State Street.
Finally, Plowshares offers two hot meals each day at 1346 S. State Street in Ukiah, and they can always use your donations. Plowshares is also in the midst of their winter fundraising campaign; contributions help provide meals at their S. State Street location and via the Meals on Wheels program that takes food to home-bound seniors in the Ukiah area. Learn more by calling 462-8582 or visiting www.plowsharesfeeds.org.
Transients come to Ukiah for a variety of reasons. Although our community is known for its generosity and it’s easy to obtain services here, most transients say the main reason they make their way to Ukiah is because of marijuana. I know preventing handouts to transients won’t solve all our problems, but it will help.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com