Lunch at Plaza Park – Where the Homeless Gather – Part 1

by Jack

This is part 1 of a 2 parter.  Tomorrow I will write about my interview with an advocate for a safe Chico.

I went to the Plaza Park not knowing what to expect.  But, as good fortune would have it, my very first contact happened to be with one of the main people who regularly provides free sandwiches and food items to the throngs of homeless that gather there all day long.

Patrick Newman, is a likable young man who is part of a small group of that he calls [real homeless advocates].  They support his ideology that results in a mission to dispense free food and sometimes clothing to those in need.   He feels he is doing what is desperately needed help the homeless.  He does not think he is enabling the homeless to avoid more traditional sources of charity that also help them with rehabilitation.

Newman made it clear to me that there are not many like himself in Chico.  He says he is an extreme case, a person he calls a “true homeless advocate.”  Which translates to him being very invested in his personal wisdom re homeless causes and cures.   That part was also made clear later in our conversation.  He seemed almost please to admit that he is very much in the minority with his ideas for the homeless.   It was just as obvious that he is obsessed with spending a good deal of his personal time providing free things for them.

Newman said the current political climate in Chico is deliberately making life hard on the homeless who already have it hard enough.   He says, the city council and others want to drive them out, “…send them somewhere else, but to where, who knows?”

He complained the City has passed stacks of laws just to make life tough for them.  He did not mention that these laws were a response to a problem, a case of cause and effect.

Patrick went on to say, “they can’t sleep on the lawn in the park or any public place, it’s a misdemeanor and they can be arrested and they are arrested!  They can even use public toilets downtown anymore” and then he noted that the City has closed down the public restrooms in Plaza Park and the little island down by Colliers hardware.

“So, where can these people go to the bathroom?”  We know it’s at times in the doorways to downtown business or on their windows and sidewalks.  There are very inappropriate places and one wonders if it was not done more for malicious reasons than necessity.

Patrick told me, “It’s not their fault they have to go, its just human biology.”  He did not mention that the bathrooms were closed because they were being repeatedly damaged by the homeless and repairs were becoming very costly to the taxpayers.    Nor did he say the filth being dumped on business doors and windows was happening long before the public restrooms were closed down.

I asked him what he thought about the apparent surge in the numbers of out of town homeless population coming to Chico?

Patrick didn’t think very many of them were from out of the area, which surprised me because the police say different and if anyone should know, its the police who arrest these people.

Speaking of other cities with a similar problem, Patrick said, “I think they get some of ours and we get some of theirs.”  If anything was behind this population problem it was  in his opinion the  growing neglect of the homeless over the past decades.   I tended to agree with this one alright, there has been a definite change.  The police once had reasonable laws that could prevent many of the problems we now face and they were on the books for 200 years.  But, law enforcement and our criminal code has been under relentless attack for about the last 4 decades…ironically, about the same time this homeless problem was growing.

Paraphrasing Newman, homeless, is a label he describes as people with traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, victims of a system that failed to care for them as children, a system that often exposed them to sexual abuse. etc.   “It’s complicated, some have a drinking problem, others are on drugs”… but almost all of them have some serious problem that society could have helped them with if we wanted too.   We agreed it was a complicated problem, but we parted on how to deal with it.   He seemed frustrated that that the people who could help aren’t doing enough.  I was frustrated with people who were doing too much without asking for something in return.  This would to establish accountability for one’s bad acts and at the same time offer a helping hand and direction.

He described the current homeless population a result of a sort of perfect storm, where many issues were converging until there was a great tipping point.  it was an explosion of sorts of a homeless population.   Perhaps so, but missing was any notion that the liberalizing of America and socialism had anything to do with it.  But, that was just my opinion.

“Maybe if we spent a few billion dollars on this problem we could fix it,” he said. I questioned this, a few million? Patrick replied, “Well may be a little more than a few, but, if we could just tax the wealthy 1% more, 1/2% or even just a 1/4% more, we could start changing things.”  Ah, sooner or later it had to get around to the rich!  The liberal answer is always the same, tax the rich and throw more money at the problem.

Patrick felt one answer was to provide housing, get the homeless into a small house, then “we could start treating their demons.”   He cited the great housing project created by Lloyd Pendleton, director of Utah’s Homeless Task Force.   This sounded reasonable, so I had to look into it.

Utah claimed they have reduced chronic homelessness by 91% by providing small houses at low cost, i.e. 30% of income or $50 whichever is greatest.

Note: A similar approach was first tried in Los Angeles in the late 1980s and New York City in the early 1990s. Later, the Bush administration adopted the model, and cities and states started writing 10-year plans to end chronic homelessness.  It hasn’t worked.

Let me pause here for a moment here to reflect on Utah’s near miraculous achievement of reducing homelessness by 91%.   That sounds too good to be true.   According to an investigative report, Utah’s claims are not true.  ”I spent some time studying Utah’s data and found that the miraculous 91 percent reduction in chronic homelessness appears to be driven by changes in how people were counted, rather than by how many there were.”

An article in the Guardian told a similar story, but acknowledged, Utah has made some progress, but the problem is still acute and it’s costing the taxpayers a bundle for more and more shelters.

So, Patrick seems to be partially right when he said subsidized housing could act as a containment point, where homeless are present for some future treatment effort.

Sure, it could, there’s no question.  But, it’s also expensive and it’s not the end all be all for a successful resolution.   This idea is just one facet among many others to treat the chronically homeless.  They all cost money, time and a lots of labor.   A few billion to treat the homeless problem is likely the greatest underestimate since Obama said Obamacare would save the average family $2800 a year.

It’s a real uphill struggle to continually try to force positive change on brain damaged or addicted people, who have made bad choices almost every minute of their lives.  These broken people can soak up finite resources at an unbelievable rate and in the end they may be little better off than than the guy (gal) who never had access to all these social services. It’s far too costly to expect a city like Chico to solve the problem alone.

Any city acting unilaterally to provide every homeless that ventures into town,  is first impossible to do and to even attempt it is to cast a giant homeless magnet into a sea of homeless.   Chico’s social resources are already being tapped to the point that we can no long provide for our own needy, because we’re taking on problems from of people from far away, sometime thousands of miles away.  These are transients that have found their way to Chico because they think this is a great place to hangout.   Or they they were given a free bus ticket here by a city glad to get rid of them.

I commend the generosity and kindly nature Patrick Newman, but I think we are far apart on many points when it comes to the homeless.  He’s very focused on what he believes and he’s very invested in those beliefs.   I can understand how his opinions/views on the homeless are in the minority, but I admire his single-minded determination and his spirit.

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15 Responses to Lunch at Plaza Park – Where the Homeless Gather – Part 1

  1. Patrick G Newman says:

    Jack, I wish you had recorded out conversation. If so, we could listen to the recording together and compare it to your blog post. I see many distortions. (If you made a recording, I’d love to go through it with you.) But, I do appreciate your efforts to understand the issues at a deeper level. Anyone interested in looking at this post, together, is welcome to contact me at chicofriendsonthestreet@gmail.com I’ll gladly meet anyone, including Jack, for a conversation. But, IMHO, this post is inaccurate, requiring an extensive rewrite–and I can’t address every point here. It would take many paragraphs. Thanks, Patrick

    • Post Scripts says:

      Patrick, first thank you for taking the time to write in and be heard. This is a free speech podium and all views are welcome. The conversation between us was not secretly recorded, that would have been illegal. Please feel free to list the inaccuracies as you see them and I will post them for all to read. I think your views are important, although we do have fundamental differences on many points. Lastly, would you care to say what points were accurate or what areas we can find agreement on?

  2. Drive By Conservative says:

    ”I spent some time studying Utah’s data and found that the miraculous 91 percent reduction in chronic homelessness appears to be driven by changes in how people were counted, rather than by how many there were.”

    On a side note, a few years ago the usual gang of pathological liars claimed time and time again that under Obama deportations of illegal immigrants increased. No, they did not. (They in fact decreased.) What Obama did was to significantly change how deportations were counted.

    Before Bush 43, any illegal who was turned away at or near the boarder was not formally deported and so not counted as a deportation. They were considered “voluntary returns” and were just sent back across the border in a bus. Bush 43 decided that such illegals should be fingerprinted and formally deported, but under his administration the practice was not widespread nor rigorously enforced.

    Under Obama this changed so that the vast majority of illegals captured at nor near the boarder were fingerprinted and formally deported whereas before Obama under Bush 43 the vast majority were not and so not counted as a deportation.

  3. J. Soden says:

    Jack, your last paragraph says it all. Great article & interview. Would bet that Patrick is a registered Demwit as well yet his good intentions stop short of taking one or more of the bums on to provide all of their needs.
    The homeless should be following the same laws as the rest of us are asked to do.
    And if Chico PD won’t enforce the laws and your City Council supports that, it’s time to boot them outta a decision-making office.

  4. Peggy says:

    I’m back, after my laptop died beyond repair I decided to go with a Chromebook. Boy is it fast in loading and no additional anti virus safeguards needed, so I’m told.

    This guy has to be related, if not by blood by mental capacity, to Chico’s police chief and city council members.

    If they don’t clean up the down towns of cities across the country they will die again just like they did in the 1960s, when people did their shopping at malls and the urban sprawl boom was born.

    Believe me this IS the dumbest man in the country let alone to be elected to Congress.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7XXVLKWd3Q

  5. More Common Sense says:

    Patrick Newman is a self-centered destructive troublemaker and has been for many years.

    He is self-centered because what he does isn’t about solving problems it’s to make himself feel superior to other people. You notice he calls himself a “true homeless advocate” as if all other homeless advocates are all inferior and he is the only “true” advocate. He does what he does so he can make these claims and continue his crusade but it is all just “smoke and mirrors”. You may notice his activities are very superficial only go so far and only serve to enable the destructive life style many of these homeless people lead. His approach to the homeless issue is provide some necessities and by doing so make it so the homeless are less apt to seek help from organizations that will work to get them off the street. In fact he has been openly critical of these organizations. In his mind his way is the only way. His only accomplishments are to prolong the “pain” the homeless experience trapping them in their situation and, at the same time, victimize the people and families that have a vested interests in the area where he conducts his activities. He uses the homeless as a tool to acquire attention. He needs people to be homeless or his life has no meaning.

    He is a troublemaker in that he is always the naysayer. Mr. Newman is very prolific with his letter-to-the-editors in both the ER and CN&R. If you read the letters on a regular basis you know what I mean. He is hardly ever positive about anything and when he is it is usually immediately followed by some harsh criticism. When he agrees with something anyone says or does it is usually in a condescending way as if he is pleased that this person finally understands a point that was obvious to him all along.

    He is a trouble maker and crackpot that uses and creates trouble to justify his existence. He is a regular at City Council meetings and is notorious for disrupting the meetings. Check out the video of the July 5th City Council Meeting where his arrogance and conceit is on full display as he disrupts a discussion with a demand that the entire City Council resign for violating the US Constitution. He is asked to leave many times by the Mayor, challenges that request and then slinks away like a coward when the Chief of Police moves towards him to eject him from the meeting. The video is at http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=680. Fast forward to 45:12. This is not an isolated case. Mr. Newman is all about doing things that, in his mind, demonstrate his superiority. All he does is succeed in demonstrating that the only difference between himself and the homeless in Plaza Park that are mentally disturbed is he has a home.

    Mr. Newman stages his activities in the City Plaza. I don’t know where Mr. Newman lives. I’m sure there is a City Park or some other City owned property nearby. Does he stage his activities there? No. Apparently it is fine to draw the homeless to an area that causes problems for other people and cost other people money but not in his backyard. If people complain about his activities he calls them “heartless” and criticizes them for being petty and unkind. He apparently thinks it is fine to single out a small group of Chico citizens and make them bear the full burden of the problem and his “solution”. And, he apparently thinks it is his decision who will be affected. You might say in his defense that he conducts his activities where the homeless are. Well, there are far more homeless in Bidwell Park than in Plaza Park. Why isn’t he there? Maybe it isn’t visible enough to be self aggrandizing enough.

    Mr. Newman talks about housing. He might have a lot more credibility if he was providing housing rather than criticizing those that do. How many homeless does he have living at his house or apartment? Maybe the City should provide him some sleeping bags and air-mattresses. I doubt it would make a difference. In the world of people like Mr. Newman the burden should not be on him because he is the leader. He tells people what to do but in his mind he is too important to do it himself.

    Let’s not fall into the trap of giving him the publicity that he craves.

    • Post Scripts says:

      Thanks Common Sense, great post. Sadly the video link did not work, I really wanted to watch it. Good information on the rest, thanks!

    • Post Scripts says:

      The overall impression I got from Patrick was that we should expect absolutely nothing from these people and we just forge ahead with help that he sees they need. That’s a lot to expect of any small municipality that has finite resources. I believe that even if we had INFINITE resources to rehab, house and feed any number of people, we can’t force them. People like the transients, especially the younger ones who have decided to drop out of regular society, do not respond well to being forced to do anything. And by what right do we have the authority to force able people to do anything? None.

    • More Common Sense says:

      The City’s video archive system seems to have problems with some browsers. Try the link with a different browser or try the link below and select the “video” link for the July 5 meeting. It really is worth it. It is a definitive representation of what Patrick Newman is all about.

      http://chico-ca.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=2

  6. J. Soden says:

    Looks like there’s some Swamp to drain down in L.A, too . . . . .

    http://www.breitbart.com/california/2017/08/10/michelle-obama-top-school-lunch-ally-charged-embezzling-lausd-funds/

    Too bad the students who had to eat Michelle’s menus didn’t have the ability to approve her white house menus . . . . .

  7. Patrick G Newman says:

    Jack, You got the wrong impression. I don’t expect our municipality to meet the needs of the homeless on every level. As a socialist, I think we need housing and social workers funded at the federal level. I believe I said as much when I said that a very small increase in income taxes on the wealthiest 1% could fund such programs very easily. You heard me say so. What I expect at the municipal level is to see humane treatment. This means that there must be restroom access 24/7. We need to stop criminalizing sleeping, etc. We need to stop demonizing people and get to know them. For me, credibility on this issue is proportional to how much time a person spends really getting to know this population. Spend a year talking with these people. Then we’ll talk more. It is my hope that you will see that your ideas on accountability have no context in the real world. I find that denial of disability, as a real world phenomenon, is rampant on the right. As to my council appearances, yes, see the tapes. The tapes speak for themselves. If anyone is interested in the text of what I said–or on the occasion I was ushered out by the deputy chief, tried to say–I’ll send my notes. I’ve included my email address above. The description provided by “More Common Sense” is laughable–clearly he was not there. All the best, Patrick

    • Patrick G Newman says:

      As to the “true advocate” quote, that’s a bit ridiculous also. I tried in our conversion to make the point that “helpers” and “advocates” are very often not the same thing. An advocate opposes criminalization laws, for example. An advocate is angry when restrooms are not available–and goes to the council to protest. An advocate opposes the closure of the Jesus Center Free Store and does something about it. An advocate protests when the Orchard Church is removed from the plaza. An advocate calls people-out on demonization. Writes letters. Etc. Most of all, an advocate knows the homeless population by name. Knows their stories. Offers support. I strive to be a good advocate, but I often fail. I’m glad there are helpers, but we need more advocates.

      • Post Scripts says:

        Duly noted sir! Patrick, please understand if what you’re doing had a chance of success I think we would all be behind you. But, this is not our first time at bat and we’ve seen your ideas before. We’ve seen this same problem in many other cities. We’ve seen so many well intentioned people give till they had nothing left to give and still the problem continued. But, what we have yet to see is a national system that deals with the chronically non-productive types in a mandatory treatment and a labor program. A hard nosed, but fair system to get people cleaned up and sober. In the most general terms, we need to get them into the habit of working a regular schedule, and for many of them this would be a first. Work is an amazing rehabilitation tool. It creates self-worth, teaches responsibility, helps curb depression, promotes respect and allows investment back into our society. I didn’t do justice to these common sense ideas, that would take hundreds of pages and I am not up to it!

        But, this reminds me of someone who was. Ever read Ayn Rand? If not, you should. For those who don’t know her, she was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism. This should be mandatory reading in high school.

        • Patrick G Newman says:

          Yes, I know the work of Ayn Rand. A terrible writer with even worse ideas. She was on Social Security when she died, BTW.

          • Patrick G Newman says:

            Also, I don’t do anything because of its likelihood of “success” or whether anyone is “behind me.” It’s a matter of right and wrong. Criminalizing and demonizing the homeless is wrong. Cutting necessary programs is wrong. Stripping people of their constitutional liberties is wrong. I don’t care about “winning.” I don’t expect to. As I read history, hate mostly triumphs. Stupidity is the norm. What happened to my Ayn Rand link? Well, it’s still there on your companion piece–readers can go to it there. Thanks for the opportunity to share my views, Jack. I do appreciate it.

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