Mayor’s solution to homelessness problem is to bus rough sleepers to neighbouring city

The mayor argues property tax paid to county funds shelter in nearby city

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Thursday 06 February 2020 16:57 GMT
Mayor's solution to homelessness crisis is to bus rough sleepers to nearby town

A California mayor has suggested a controversial solution to his city’s homelessness problem — bus the homeless to a nearby city.

Mayor Robert Rickman of the city of Tracy, California, proposed the idea at a city council meeting on Tuesday.

Asking what could be done about the problem “tomorrow,” he referred to the neighbouring city of Stockton and how it had just built a big shelter for the homeless.

“If it’s going to be 35 degrees, why don’t we have a designated spot? They can come, get a ticket, and go to that shelter?” Mr Rickman said.

“You know, get a bus ticket to some of these shelters, hey, laugh but it gets these people out of the cold.”

Standing by his comments, Mr Rickman argues that property tax dollars from Tracy paid to San Joaquin County, which includes the two cities, funded the shelter in Stockton.

“All this money from our city, on our property tax, is getting shipped over to the county and put into the city of Stockton, it’s not returning to our cities,” he told CBS13.

The mayor of Stockton, Michael Tubbs, is unimpressed by Mr Rickman’s proposal, describing it as “pathetic”.

The two mayors traded tweets about their respective approaches to homelessness.

Mayor Tubbs said: “It’s nonsensical for ‘leaders’ like @MayorRickman to propose allocating 50k from the city of Tracy’s budget to send folks to Stockton. Nah. How about you lead and build a shelter, approve affordable housing, and enact tenant protections in your city. How pathetic.”

For his part, Mr Rickman responded: “Instead of parading around the country with billionaires, Stockton Mayor Tubbs should spend more time at home where homelessness has tripled according to last counts. His comment below is so wrong.”

Mayor Rickman then pointed to research concerning the problem of mental illness among the homeless population, that argues those affected “are not going to magically walk in to housing and have their problems disappear”.

Mr Tubbs shot back: “Mayor, you are way out of your league. In terms of solutions, you might want to listen to homeless experts or members of your own council. You can also work more closely with the county board you are running for.”

He then listed the ways in which Stockton is dealing with its own homelessness problem.

Mayor Tubbs also pointed out that Mr Rickman voted against declaring a shelter emergency in Tracy in 2018. That declaration would have seen hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state awarded to Tracy to build its own shelter.

He added he had written to Mayor Rickman, telling him not to bus the homeless from Tracy to Stockton and has offered guidance on other solutions.

The proposal to bus homeless people elsewhere is not a new idea. San Francisco has a programme called ‘Homeward Bound’ that sends hundreds of people a year back to family or friends who may be able to help them out. Approximately one in eight of those transported return to the city.

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