Team Shasta developing transient and homeless strategies

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald
Team Shasta met to create a Mt. Shasta Transient and Homeless Plan last Wednesday, July 6, with workshop designer and facilitator Di Strachan. Workshop outcomes and key initiatives will be shared at an upcoming city council meeting. Submitted

More than 20 Mt. Shasta City and Siskiyou County leaders and representatives met on Wednesday, July 6, in an all day workshop sponsored by Team Shasta, beginning the development of a collaborative plan to address the needs of and impacts resulting from transient and homeless populations in Mt. Shasta and surrounding region.

Included in the workshop were representatives from diverse community sectors: public safety, City of Mt. Shasta, the business community, behavioral health and community services, homeless service providers, and public facilities.

Four key initiatives, along with top actions on how to begin to accomplish the initiatives, were created following a lengthy brainstorming session identifying shared community vision elements, top priorities, and the impacts and needs of the transient and homeless populations.

The four key initiatives include:

• Providing safe environments for community members and visitors;

• Creating a public engagement and outreach process around homeless and transient populations;

• Providing local homeless services including emergency services, and

• Improving behavioral health (mental and substance abuse conditions) services for local homeless populations.

“We had a caring and committed group show up for this Team Shasta community workshop,” states city council member and workshop organizer Kathy Morter in a press release. “Our desired outcomes going into this workshop were to share a positive community vision regarding to our transient and homeless populations, residents and visitors; to identify guiding principals and values to guide our implementation of new collaborative actions; to strengthen the new Team Shasta working group; and to enjoy the process of working hard together to find solutions to improve the quality of life for everyone in our community. I am happy to report that the workshop met all of its outcomes and then some.”

The workshop was facilitated by Mount Shasta resident Di Strachan of Positive Futures. “Di’s workshop design and positive prodding helped us accomplish in one day what would have taken us much longer without her experienced navigation. We’re off to a great start,” said city councilor Tim Stearns.

Attending the workshop were Mt. Shasta Police Chief Parish Cross, Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey, Mt. Shasta City Council members Tim Stearns and Kathy Morter, Mt. Shasta Chamber of Commerce board president Brett Waite; Berryvale Grocery owner Belinda Higuera, Snow Creek Studios and Expershare owner Greg Messer, Siskiyou County Behavioral Health Division director Sarah Collard, Community Services Council executive director Kathy Suvia, Mt. Shasta Community Resource Center executive director Bliss Bryan and family service coordinator Julie Eckert, reserve deputy and St. Anthony’s Church deacon (in process) Ed Pecis, Meals on Wheels and Mt. Shasta Thanksgiving Meal coordinator Dawn Fazende, USFS Shasta McCloud Management Unit district ranger Carolyn Napper and battalion chief Steve Clark, A Melo Place owner and homeless advocate Atara Melo, Mt. Shasta Recreation and Parks district administrator Mike Rodriguez, Mt. Shasta Library executive director Courtney Laverty and consultant Kristen Stroud, Mt. Shasta Postmaster Matt Valdivia, and Ford Family Foundation field coordinator Crystal Aston and fellow alumna Janet Zalewski.

Team Shasta’s next steps include: reporting the workshop outcomes at an upcoming Mt. Shasta City Council meeting, fine tuning and sharing the plan with more community input and collaboration, holding a public engagement workshop, and acquiring funding to help implement the action plans for each initiative.

“Though there are many different perspectives among residents about this, community organizations that have direct contact with homeless and transient people are doing a commendable job of balancing accountability with compassion and legal rights, with very limited resources,” says Morter. “There was overwhelming agreement in the workshop that much more can, and needs to be done. We can accomplish more by working collaboratively with more planning, education, public outreach, and resources. We are certainly off to a great start with our draft plan.”

The workshop wrap-up included participant comments about the value of the workshop, including: “I valued the diversity of the group and all the different perspectives about homeless and transient issues.” “Sharing our visions for our community, I feel more hopeful.” “I feel re-energized about my community work.” “I appreciated how the group shifted from complaining to positive directions for our community.” “I appreciated the opportunity to problem solve outside my box.” “I was angry when I came into the workshop, but I’m leaving with more empathy for chronically homeless people.” “I was impressed with the teamwork and shared purpose in this workshop.”

Team Shasta is a project that originated from the City of Mt Shasta’s 2014-17 Strategic Plan. One of the strategic plan’s priorities is to support our population of local chronically homeless people. The partnership started with a first meeting in December 2015 when its focus expanded to include on-foot travelers commonly called transients. The team is evolving and clarifying its understanding, role, scope, and tasks at each meeting. A community engagement workshop is being planned to provide an opportunity for broader community involvement.

A coordinating council of representatives from each of Team Shasta’s sectors will guide the process, ensuring effective communication and operations. Members currently include Brett Waite, Parish Cross, Ed Pecis, Carolyn Napper, Kathy Morter and Tim Stearns.

Team Shasta’s broader mission is to work collaboratively to inspire communication, planning, and the marshalling of resources to improve the quality of life for our communities and visitors. The homeless and transient initiative is their first initiative.