The homeless at John Maroot Park are hard to miss. The sight reminds Corcoran residents of the tents set up by homeless in neighboring cities next to their freeways. However, as common as it may be for larger cities Corcoran has seemed to escape the big city homeless issues in the past, until today.What has changed? Why does it seem to be a larger issue for Corcoran today? Residents are also wondering why so many new faces are among the local homeless population. What’s the answer to Corcoran’s homeless plight and what can be done?
According to Corcoran Police Department’s Deputy Chief Gary Cramer, Corcoran is dealing with what other cities are dealing with when it comes to the homeless.
“I do think we have a problem but the problem is much bigger than Corcoran,” Deputy Chief Cramer said. Cramer says the issue is much deeper than removing them from the city park as residents have suggested. In fact, that can’t be done because in California there is a Homeless Bill of Rights which prevents the PD from taking that action.The homeless issue runs much deeper and is more complicated than what is on the surface, Deputy Chief Cramer added.
“Most homeless are suffering from mental health issues, drug and alcohol issues and until those issues are addressed then not much can be done to get them off the streets or out of the park,” Cramer commented.And, the Corcoran Police Department has tried. The state’s Homeless Bill of Rights says they have a right to say no to the services like mental health and drug abuse help or finding them a shelter to stay in.
“It says they have a right to refuse what we are offering. We have tried. We have driven some of them to shelters, in Hanford and other places but often times they decline the service and we can’t force them into a shelter or force them to accept those services,” he said.The Corcoran PD has exhausted every avenue to help the issue. Some CPD officers even spend their own personal money to pay for a storage unit to help the homeless keep their property in but that doesn’t seem to have a long term effect on the pile of property at the park, Cramer noted.
“As a police department we try to do everything we can to alleviate the homeless issue and we work with a variety of social services outfits– adult protective services, behavioral health, veterans services–to try to get them help,” he commented. “Some refuse. Some take advantage of it for a short period of time and they stay there for a day or two and then they come back. But most of the time—a majority of the time they are completely resistant.
”However, based on the homeless bill of rights, they have a right to move freely in any public space. The law allows them to be there at the park. The Corcoran PD says other laws that they can enforce they do; such as drinking in public, and being under the influence. But with recent changes in laws those offenses have been reduced to non-bookable offenses and instead they are given a citation.Cramer also explained why residents have seen a growth in the local homeless population and that some of it can be explained.
“We know where some come from. They have stumbled upon Corcoran by way of train and other transportation. Some are not really from here but have other family members here that they came to visit and they stay with them a short time and then those family members kick them out,” he added. “So there’s a variety of issues that have brought them here but I don’t know if there’s just one in particular reason.
”Most of the homeless fight a drug and/or alcohol issue along with mental health disease. “I think it could get worse—the majority of homeless people have either mental health issues or drug abuse issues or both and that compounds the problem and if we can address those issues then I think we would actually start to address the homeless population,” he said.
Recently, in one particular incident, a female was dancing atop a garbage can on Whitley Avenue by Christmas Tree Park. Corcoran PD responded, followed by an ambulance and she was transported to the hospital. Cramer said the next step for someone in that case they will get evaluated at the hospital by a case worker from mental health and they determine a treatment plan for the individual. Sometimes they will be admitted and sometimes they will be assessed and released with a plan of action for counseling services. However, they still can’t be forced to follow through Cramer said adding that some homeless on medication just won’t take it.
“I know it’s a problem but I think it’s an issue that needs to be addressed at the state legislative level,” he noted. “I know other people don’t feel comfortable using our parks and it’s a problem here but it’s a problem everywhere. We need some legislative changes where we can have some control because it is a quality of life issue and I understand homeless need to have rights as well. There’s a balance somewhere but I think right now–I think it’s out of balance.
”The answer on how to address the local homeless population may be elusive but the Corcoran Police department is working with the City of Corcoran on how to address the issue.“Even though our hands are tied, we aren’t going to give up. We are trying and we will keep on trying,” Deputy Chief Cramer said.