Did you ever have that neighbor you’ve known for years offer a proposal for solving a societal problem that just blows you away? Practical or not, this person looked at the problem of homelessness and gave serious thought about what to do and how to do it. My praise, for what it’s worth, goes out to Joe Ayers, owner of Royal Redwood Ranch east of Comptche and a Mendocino County resident for 50 years.
Joe was upset, as a citizen and a Christian, about the homeless situation on the Mendocino Coast. He applauded the work of social service agencies that provided counseling, meals, transportation and extreme weather shelters for the needy, but they are not enough, he feels.
Getting the homeless off the streets at night and getting their possessions, shopping carts and vehicles to a legal secure location is Joe’s idea. This would appeal to merchants and the public. But how? Ayers would like to se a co-operative effort involving faith and social service communities and local government working towards reducing and eliminating homelessness on the coast.
Ayers offers the following possibilities. First, establish legal encampments on county, state, timber company or private lands with trash and recycling containers and portapotties or city water and sewer if available. Next, have tents and minimal low cost structures of salvaged, recycled and/or donated materials, built by volunteers and able bodied homeless. There would be legal off-street parking in this location for vehicles, RV’s and trailers running or not and licensed or not.
Open vacant city, county and privately owned buildings, with or without renovations, with or without utilities, but with trash service and sanitary facilities might be used. All locations would have rules, conditions, guidelines and contact info. posted. Who would be in charge? Responsible homeless folks would supervise cleaning and servicing the area and call for social service, mental health, and law enforcement as needed and those workers would get some kind of pay. Portable tiny houses made from recycled and/or donated materials could be built by able bodied homeless and volunteers. Supervised high school and college students could get community service credit for working in such a place.
In time minimal low coast and code compliant integrated housing in towns up and down the coast could be built. This action could provide an excellent working model for other communities and locals could be proud of taking care of their less fortunate neighbors.
Ayers suggests property tax breaks for large, medium and small landowners who allow encampments. Let’s have community water spigots and plastic jugs. Renovate and adapt abandoned buildings and old empty motels. While some readers will immediately think “Oh…that would never work…” I commend my neighbor Joe Ayers for thinking through a problem and coming up with his ideas for a solution. Joe is at P.O. Box 112 in Comptche. Let him know if you think this might work.