September 24, 2014: S.R. & Umbrella Groups Monthly Meeting Notes

Cia Byrnes, Executive Director, for Ritter Center was introduced by City Manager Nancy Mackle.  Ms. Byrnes has been with Ritter for 6 or 8 years and was recently promoted to executive director.

Cia Byrnes mentioned a number of items in her opening statement:

  1. She is concerned about the “silo agencies” that could work together much better than currently.  She was referring to the numerous agencies that currently serve the needy and homeless.
  2. Ritter relocation.: She said that the new location needs to be sensitive to the community as well as those that they serve.
  3.  She mentioned the problem clients that Ritter has.  These clients are a problem for Ritter as well as the community.  Ritter is looking for solutions to change this dynamic.
  4. Ritter has stepped up security.
  5. Ritter is working with the Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) on finding a permanent location for the REST Program.

Mayor Gary Phillips spoke about the idea of changing the REST program from a 5 month operation to a year around operation, making several points:

  1. The MOC needs to plan for more than just one year.  Funding and planning need to be set up for years, not just for one year.
  2.  The MOC is planning for 20 women and 40 men.  Mayor Philips is thinking more in terms of 60 men and 20 women.
  3.  The County needs to provide at least a portion of the funding.
  4.  The program needs to include multiple shelters.  This would entail dividing the operation in three parts, 1/3 in the County, 1/3 in San Rafael and 1/3 south of San Rafael.
  5.  The MOC is proposing multiple pick up locations just like was used in the 2013/2014 REST season.
  6.  The MOC has proposed using the former Patio World site at 502 Irwin St, but is apparently seeking additional locations, but Mayor Phillips thinks that 40 men in this one location would be too much.
  7.  Participants on the Downtown Streets Team should get priority for beds.

There was a brief discussion of Laura’s Law, a California state law that allows for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment or forced anti-psychotics in most cases. To qualify for the program, the person must have a serious mental illness plus a recent history of psychiatric hospitalizations, jailings or acts, threats or attempts of serious violent behavior towards [self] or others.

The law was named after Laura Wilcox, a mental health worker who was killed by a man who had refused psychiatric treatment. At this point, the County is not supporting the adoption of this law.

Lynn Murphy, San Rafael Police Department Mental Health Outreach Provider, gave a presentation on some of the programs for mentally ill.

Ms. Murphy travels about town in company of a police officer seeking those with mental problems.  You might find her in a city park, open space, a homeless campsite, or downtown.  Many of those she comes in contact with are homeless.

There are a number of programs Lynn Murphy can refer people to:

Odyssey Program

This program serves seriously mentally ill that are willing to seek help for their problem.  Currently, the capacity is 60 beds.  The program usually is above capacity and Lynn hopes the capacity will be increased to about 90.  They are housed in supportive housing with a case manager.  Prior to getting into Odyssey,  many  of the people have had  countless arrests.  For sure, jails are not  mental institutions.  There have been only two arrests in the past two years of Odyssey people.  Lynn has gotten 8 people into the program in the past year.

TAY (Transitional Aged Youth)

This program is designed for youth 18 to 25 years old.  They deal with youth having mental, substance abuse and home problems.  Many are homeless.  Ambassadors for Hope and Opportunity (AHO) operates the program out of an office on Lincoln Ave.  This age group has many unique problems.  Many of the clients are foster children that have timed out at age 18 and now  face  life on  the streets.

HOPE (Helping Older People Excel)

There are many problems unique to those over 60 years and that is what this  program is designed for.  Not necessarily only for homeless, it serves all.

STAR (Support and Treatment after Release)

This program is for those mentally ill that have been in the criminal justice system.   It is similar to Laura’s Law, except that the participants have to be referred by the justice system.  Those that have not been arrested are not eligible.

Nader Mansourian, Public Works Director, gave an update on the SMART train crossings on Pacheco and Paloma where children walking to school will be. The City is hosting a series of meetings to try to get information to the public and to find out what people want at the crossings in San Rafael.

Since Fire Chief Gray was unable to attend, Deputy Fire Marshall John Lippitt spoke for the Fire Department focusing on vegetation management. The department’s program is mainly public education aimed at getting defensible space around homes so that the fire fighters can defend the homes. The department will do evaluations for homeowners. They also point out code violations and try to be reasonable in the time allowed for corrections. They will grant continuations for homeowners who are cooperating.   In the hills, they are trying to reduce fuel load and to make the area not hospitable for encampments. Mayor Phillips pointed out that there has been a dramatic reduction in fires starting in homeless encampments.

Nancy Mackle reported on the progress the City has made in leasing solar panels for the roofs of its buildings.