Her Voice: Homeless deserve chance on Emerson Avenue
by Adrienne Howell/Submitted to the Tracy Press
Jul 06, 2012 | 4515 views | 10 10 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I do not live near Emerson Avenue, nor do I live near any type of “transitional” or “halfway” type of housing. But I did grow up with a mother who worked with the Sonoma County Homeless Coalition, as well as many other similar organizations that worked to help both individuals and families recover from periods of homelessness.

I haven’t lived in this area for very long, but I’m aware that the McHenry House Family Shelter takes in homeless families, while single homeless individuals have very little assistance here.

The stigma of homelessness, I believe, comes from the individuals we have all seen — tattered and disease-ridden, seemingly mentally ill or on drugs. But this is not the way all homeless should be portrayed. Especially in this economy, the difference between home and homeless is as tenuous as one or two paychecks.

The homeless individuals moving next door on Emerson Avenue could potentially have as recently as a few months ago worked for UPS, or McDonald’s, or Marshalls and unfortunately been laid off. Should these people be ignored or ostracized because they are single and aren’t eligible for local transitional housing for families?  

My mother, whom I spoke of earlier, raised me by herself, and there were times growing up when I was well aware that had she not found a job that very month, we would have been without housing.  My mother was a hard-working woman who went through some very difficult times during my childhood, but I managed to complete college with a bachelor’s degree from the University of San Francisco and, fortunately, have not had to endure the hardships that plagued her.

Regardless it still makes me understand that homelessness can happen to people in all different walks of life and in many different circumstances. As a single woman, had I not been lucky enough to obtain a degree and a stable job, I would hope that there would be a place like the proposed house on Emerson Avenue where I could turn for help restoring order to my life.  

Please, before disregarding these people (and yes, they are people), try to understand that the folks “running the show” appear to be quite well-qualified and would like to find candidates to live in the home who would fit into a suburban neighborhood while not causing a nuisance to the neighbors.  

To paraphrase, the occupants would be nonviolent, non-gang members, non-sex offenders, would be given health care and would have strict rules regarding drugs, alcohol and nightly curfews.

Sometimes good people simply have a bad time in life and need help. Who are we, as those lucky enough to receive monthly paychecks for the time being, to deny them the right to try to return to that life?  

Please consider that, and in the meantime, I hope that you are lucky enough to continue to maintain the employment that allows you the ability to pay your rent or mortgage and support yourself and your families.

• Editor’s note: A house at 26 W. Emerson Ave. is being used by the Coalition of Tracy Citizens to Assist the Homeless as a place for single, homeless individuals to stay while they find employment.

• Adrienne Howell has lived in Mountain House since 2008. She is a registered nurse at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
July 26, 2012
Oh no, we can't help the needy in Tracy. God forbid that that happen. We're too interested in taking political positions, pushing others aside, ignoring the destitute and running our own lives to do that. Better that we whistle a tune generated by the media, pray for them, and little else. Yes, that's my plan. It's cheaper and I can then sanctomoniously pretend that "these people" are something fundamentally different from me.
July 30, 2012
Hey spikes,

It's not that people don't want to help, it's that the people that organized this "home" don't have a clue on how to do it and now the neighborhood will suffer because of a couple of people who are either incompetent or unethical, and claim they are a organized "coalition".

July 16, 2012
Wow, looks like the Coalition doesn't even have structure!! Pastor Tom Bardwell was a joke and according to Marvin, "he was the most qualified to run the shelter". Now Lisa is trying to take control but how can you take control while heading for a dead end?
July 13, 2012
So refreshing to see some new names saying some new positive things full of understanding and compassion. Doesn't sound like Tracy at all, Wonderful!
July 12, 2012
pinkwillow, there seems to be no doubt that the neighborhood should have been more involved in the planning of this program. However, in the June 29 article, it states:

"Volunteer house manager Preston Walker told neighbors that his 23 years working with homeless, in addition to his former experience as a firefighter and Alameda County reserve deputy sheriff, made him qualified to manage the home.

He is also state certified to prepare food for the home’s occupants and said he has a doctorate in clinical psychology and a doctorate in pastoral counseling."

I think that ensures the manager is qualified to successfully help the people who will live there, as well as protect the neighbors from their fears.

Adrienne, I see you have a very difficult job within your profession and the medical field. I honestly don't know how you do it. Thank you for being such a compassionate person. As a society we seem to be forgetting that we are all in this together. We need people like you to remind us that it doesn't have to be a dog-eat-dog world.
July 14, 2012
Intelligent life,

Looks like all of your qualified individuals that are running the "coalition" are resigning and hiding. They have no business attempting to run a shelter watch, this thing is going to end bad.

Hey mh123,

What does how you were raised and your current job have to do with you letting the homeless live in your house?
July 07, 2012
Wonderful article! I hope the community can accept their new neighbors and help them achieve their goals instead of tearing them down even more.
July 06, 2012
Thank you Adrienne for all of your compassionate comments. I would like to point out that we generally do not get to choose our neighbors, and if the folks living in this new home are screened as far as being non-violent, non-gang members, non-sex offenders, and are not on drugs or abusing alcohol, and have a curfew nightly, than they are a better choice for a neighbor than not knowing who is moving in next to you!!

The people in charge of this home seem very well versed in how to run it. And I agree with you as I would bet many of those protesting this home are unfortunately a few paychecks from needing their services. Let us help our brothers and sisters in need by giving them the support and a hand up when they need it. I applaud your commentary.
July 08, 2012
Loves music,

Where have you located any information that would lead you to believe the "coalition" people are qualified to even walk a dog?

Go to thier website, it says two people were talking about the homeless and they formed the coalition. No formal training, no education, no prior experience in the field. Nothing..... They lied about the neighbors approving the place. What a joke. What experience/training do they have screening people, I would be terrified that a couple of people, good intentions or not, rented a house,and started moving people in that had no job or income with no formal training.

Hey Adrienne, why don't you let the homeless live with you?
July 12, 2012
Pink Willow,

From a young age my mother introduced me to her clients who ranged from those I spoke of in my article to homeless schizophrenics who didn't know who I was from day to day. Very often we had such people over to the house to shower and freshen up, or even spend the night on below freezing nights. I have no fear of the homeless, nor would I have a problem working at or running transitional housing if given the opportunity. During college I went the route of RN and got a job in pediatric oncology/Bone marrow transplant, so I have a full time job taking care of kids with cancer at the moment.

In response to your final statement I would reply "Hey Pink Willow, why don't you let compassion live with you?"

We encourage readers to share online comments in this forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a space for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Comments that stray from the topic of the story or are found to contain abusive language are subject to removal at the Press’ discretion, and the writer responsible will be subject to being blocked from making further comments and have their past comments deleted. Readers may report inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at tpnews@tracypress.com.