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Jack Duran, District 1 Update

As with any jurisdiction, Placer County faces challenges. While we are in a well-run, economically healthy county – not to mention one of the most beautiful – we face issues that require innovative thinking and problem solving. 

We have been grappling with the issue of homelessness for some time now and I’m pleased to say that we stand on the cusp of taking a big step forward on positively changing the unfortunate reality that affects far too many people in the area. The county commissioned Dr. Robert G. Marbut, Jr., a nationally recognized expert on homelessness, to do a study on homelessness in Placer County and report back to us with his findings.  

Those findings, along with recommendations on how to proceed, will be presented to the board of supervisors in the coming weeks. As I’ve said previously on this topic, we need to know where we are, what our actual baseline really is, before we can move forward to solve this problem. 

Some preliminary data that Dr. Marbut compiled showed some surprising things. The Union Pacific’s J.R. Davis rail yard here in Roseville is often singled out as a significant source of homeless. However, the data indicates that only a very small percentage of our homeless come from the rail yard. To the contrary, most of the homeless in Placer County come from Placer County; it’s a homegrown issue. 

The solution to this regional issue that stretches across many jurisdictional boundaries will likely be a compendium of services and programs. The myriad circumstances that leave someone homeless are idiosyncratic. So too must be the solutions. This isn’t a cookie cutter business and we must individualize how we treat it.   

We are looking forward to hearing Dr. Marbut’s final report as it will give us additional facts so we may then make informed decisions on how best to proceed. 

Just as we must tailor assistance for the homeless to the individual’s need, a similar movement is occurring within our criminal justice system. The tired and unsuccessful model of making criminals serve their time and then cutting them loose back into society ended up with most of them returning to jail. Statistics show a dismal three-year, post-release failure rate of 67 percent. We are now embarking on a program that will get needed help to both those about to be released and those who were recently released.  

We’re identifying propensities for unhealthy behaviors and requiring offenders avail themselves to services to keep them out of the revolving jailhouse door. In fact, we are building a new facility offering centrally located services. The Placer County Re-Entry Program (PREP) provides a breadth of services that include cognitive behavioral thinking classes, substance abuse education, treatment referrals, job training, mentorship and employment placement, education and G. E. D. preparation, life skills, and anger management, along with relational and family skill development. 

We are finding the solutions to successfully helping both the homeless and criminal offenders often run on parallel tracks.  Dealing with these seeming disparate populations frequently involves the same agencies.   

There is a criminal element to the homeless issue and law enforcement and probation will need to be at the table if we are to craft solutions. Getting both groups the health services they need involves the county’s many Health and Human Services divisions. A disproportionate number of the homeless are veterans, and many are incarcerated. We particularly owe it to the men and women who have given of themselves to their country to provide them with the services they need to overcome the trauma many experienced in the war zones where they were stationed. The county’s Veterans Services office will play a key role in assisting both populations. 

I am proud to be part of a group of elected and appointed government officials who work with residents, businesses, the faith-based community and other service providers to give another chance to those who are either less fortunate than we are, or have just made some bad mistakes. 

One of the admirable human traits is helping others. I am continually amazed to see those who live and work in Placer County open their hearts and get down to work to help our community members in need, regardless of where we find them.  

As always, it is an honor and a privilege to serve you. I always welcome your feedback and can be reached by e-mail at jduran@placer.ca.gov or by phone at 916-787-8950.

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