Another Black Mark on Modesto, The Blue Ribbon Commission on the Homeless
By Emerson Drake
It was supposed to help the chronic homeless and homeless veterans when Councilman Joe Muratore asked the Safety and Communities Committee for permission to create what evolved into this cruel and heartless attack on Modesto’s homeless.
Out of 32 applicants, 9 were chosen. One dropped out but the rest pushed forward with their personal agendas. J. David Wright, the Chairman of the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Homeless or (BRCH), stated it correctly when, at the April 03, 2012 City Council meeting ,said the 9 chosen were all “effected” by our homeless citizens . He failed to mention the members were either negatively effected by the homeless or stood to gain potential financial profit for themselves or the respective self identified groups they represent.
But even that doesn’t tell the whole story of the BRCH’s members.
Mike Moradian was one of Joe Muratore’s confidants in Muratore’s council election campaign. Moradian was the leader of a non-profit LaLoma Neighborhood Association (LLNA). The LLNA “strongly supported” Muratore’s council bid and the LLNA soon lost its non-profit status. Muratore and Moradian were advocates of leveling the airport district (which is in Muratore’s council District) in order to help rid Modesto of its homeless population and those who Moradian perceived as “trouble makers.” Moradian also supported Muratore’s hope the city would financially support their private security force in LaLoma’s local public parks.
Two of the chosen were former members of the Stanislaus Community Assistance Program (SCAP). Darryl Fair who was Chairman for SCAP’s board of directors during the height of the SCAP debacle and has been hoping someone would come along and fund a daycare center said he could “manage.” And Frank Ploof who, for a period of time, was a member of SCAP’s board of directors and despite having SCAP’s irregularities exposed with Darryl Fair at the helm, continued to “hook up” Fwith air at the Renaissance Center. The center was originally set up as a non-profit in Fair’s sons’ name but lost its non-profit status from the IRS for non-compliance of financial regulations.
Vanessa Czopek, Stanislaus County’s head librarian was chosen because of, or in spite of, her misgivings regarding the homeless presence in and around the downtown branch in Modesto. She had taken active steps to disenfranchise these citizens from their right to use the library. Since she couldn’t legally refuse them access to the inside, she attempted to “disinclined” them of using the outside. Ms. Czopek had most of the tables and benches removed from the library portico. Unfortunately many other citizens, yes even those with homes, used these benches as a place to rest while exploring the nearby farmers market or just enjoying the beautiful tree-lined streets adjoining the library.
Brad Wilson had been a long time employee of the Modesto’s Y0semite Gospel Mission. During his time on the committee he was placed in charge of the Mission. He did have some difficulties with getting permission to renovate an existing structure to expand their rehabilitation abilities. Of course an opportunity to reinforce his “way” of rehabilitating people and a chance to funnel a larger percentage of public donations to his organization couldn’t possibly hurt.
Steve Madison the former head of Modesto’s Building Industry Association and now on the Board of Directors there managed to get himself appointed to the Salvation Army Board. A feat usually performed by aspiring political wannabees through donating a significant amount of money but requiring no expertise or experience with those in need. Unless of course of you count a developer looking for a piece of prime farm land to plant driveways in or a politician looking for a campaign donation.
J.David Wright the Commission Chairman is a local insurance branch owner and salesman and doesn’t like anyone to eek out an existence by living behind a dumpster near his place of business. Mr. Wright has been especially busy donating to successful Council and failed Mayoral hopefuls to the tune of $5,700 in the last year alone. Did I mention many of these same candidates are now on the council and recently reappointed him and the other Commissioners (I guess they think it sounds better than committee members) to another yet unnamed commission task?
J. David Wright made it very clear he/they believe the homeless are molly coddled and overfed. He made the claim they homeless could get fed 10 to 15 times a day, which is something the report doesn’t document. Muratore later made the claim that the homeless could get fed up to 20 times daily. This claim was refuted later by people and groups who fed the homeless daily on their own.
Wright also made the claim there are 10 or 12 agencies in Modesto that pass out food daily. Again their report does not substantiate this. Point in fact, one of the agencies they reference will give 3 days of food once every 3 months!
We need to understand the BRCH had several goals. One is to create a mindset of “out of sight out of mind.” Day centers would be helpful but not as a magic wand. Many of the homeless wouldn’t use a daycare facility except occasionally or during inclimate weather.
Another goal is to funnel donations, monetary and food, to just a few groups like the Yosemite Gospel Mission, Interfaith ministries) which didn’t participate here) and the Salvation Army. unfortunately this limits the people who will be allowed access to the support services provided since these agencies have alienated aprox.15-20% of the homeless due to their restrictive rules and religious affiliations.
An informative pamphlet Merced uses would be of great use to homeless advocates and those wishing to truly assist the homeless in finding available resources. It is also necessary to monitor the major groups presently assisting the homeless in order to ensure the greatest dispersion to ALL of the homeless not just those who fit the cookie cutter ideals of the few powerful organizations who presently dominate the field. Plus the homeless most often are transportation challenged. The “fairytale style anecdotal stories” told by the BRCH members are a prime example of how their agendas have tainted their perspectives. Grants being written for or money handed over to “professional non-profiteers” should be avoided.
The reading of the BRCH’s final report is recommended. BRCReport. But continued community involvement and supervision is very important. The Joe Muratore’s of the world can’t be trusted with those who are most vulnerable to society’s baser instincts.
What we allow done to the least of us we allow done to all of us.