Community/Site: Victorville, CA
Grant Cycle/Phase: Legacy Site
Lead Organization: Global Institute for Public Strategies
Coach: Marcos Ramirez
Community Problem/Issue: Community Safety
This case study is intended to capture and summarize an example of a community developing key partnerships and engaging in sustainable systems change. It highlights lessons that were learned during an effort to change an institutional policy and the outcomes of resident action.
The number of homeless individuals in the downtown area of Victorville has continued to increase over several years and began to be a problem for businesses and visitors to the area. Increased homelessness not only presented a safety issue (for both residents, businesses, and those living without shelter), but also impacted the vitality of the downtown core. In the effort to better understand the conditions contributing to the situation, ROOT -the CBI Core Team - learned that the local jail was dropping newly released inmates downtown with nothing but a one-way bus ticket. Many individuals resorted to selling their bus tickets for cash and remained in the downtown area. With few resources available to assist with shelter for those in need, these individuals ultimately became homeless and continued to live on the streets of City A.
Residents began researching the issue. They spoke with Business’, residents, and visitors to the area to better understand the problem. They worked with local law enforcement to learn more about the nature of complaints and any crimes associated with the homeless, and they interviewed many of those living without shelter in the downtown area. They learned that many of those released from jail had no financial resources and, in some cases, struggled with Alcohol/Drug addictions. They also learned about the local jails release practice.
ROOT engaged city council representatives and homeless advocates in partnership and approached the Jail to better understand the release policy and explore options for more supportive release practices. They learned that the Jail awarded a contract for transportation and support of newly released inmates. The long-time awardee had been providing transportation and represented the bus tickets as the “support” services. No connection to housing or other support services was required by the contract or provided by the selected vendor. The partnership, driven by the residents, was able to compel the Jail to re-open bidding for the contract and include a requirement that would ensure connections to supportive services. In the meantime, residents continued to work collectively with their city and service partners to identify a local agency that would be able to provide housing and drug/alcohol treatment support to newly released inmates.
The city actively partnered in the effort via the offer of a grant to the awardee to help fund the support services. A service center that provided housing support and drug treatment services was identified and encouraged to apply for the contract.
The partnership of residents, City Counsel and homeless advocates proved to be powerful. It was a group that could speak effectively to the impacts of the problem on individuals and families, on the city, and on the inmates, who in this case were not represented as the problem themselves but rather a segment of the community that was being negatively impacted as a result of a practice that was failing.
The capacity built through CBI to “go upstream” and research the underlying causes of the issue led these residents to recognize the problem as a systemic issue — one that could be addressed by changing an internal policy/practice. Prior to CBI, residents would have looked to solving this problem by creating services and supports to mitigate/treat the issue of homelessness. While the new Jail policy (resulting in a new contractor) has not addressed the entire problem of homelessness in the downtown area, it has made considerable inroads. At the same time, it has also begun to tackle the additional problems associated with successful re-entry and recidivism.
The solution was a win-win-win-win. The City, the prison, the residents, the newly released inmates, and the local service agency that was awarded the contract all realized considerable benefits from the solution.
The partnership and this shared success established the ROOT as a key stakeholder and cemented the relationships between the city and the residents.
A local service agency was successful with their bid to provide transportation and support services to newly released inmates. They were awarded the prison contract and with city support were able to purchase vans for transportation and provide wrap around support services for newly released inmates. While some of those recently released from the prison continued to live in the downtown core without shelter, many were able to find housing, treatment, and employment through the service center. Several previous and current homeless individuals became acquainted with the residents and, in a few cases, became engaged in the CBI efforts to improve the downtown corridor (building gardens, clean-ups, etc.).