I’m sure you’ve heard of organizations like the Ford Street Project, the Food Bank, and Plowshares. Last week, while preparing a presentation about the homeless and transient problems in Ukiah, I visited these organizations. I was inspired by incredibly dedicated people, who are passionate about providing services to those less fortunate.
I learned that Plowshares provides more than 3,108 meals a month to families, senior citizens and those who cannot afford to buy food. In fact, I was told that 70 percent of Plowshares’ guests are not homeless; they simply do not have enough money to buy lunch or dinner.
Plowshares serves lunch and dinner at their facility on South State Street Monday through Friday. On the weekends, Plowshares partners with 15 local churches to provide the Hunger Express Program. This partnership assures that more than 400 meals a month are delivered to various locations within Ukiah each Saturday and Sunday.
For those who can’t make it to Plowshares’ facility on South State Street, Plowshares’ Meals on Wheels program delivers 2,250 meals a month to homebound seniors and disabled members of the community.
Plowshares provides all of these services for an extremely small cost. The entire annual budget of Plowshares is only $330,000 and about 90 percent of that funding comes from private donations.
Ukiah Community Center/Food Bank
The Ukiah Community Center and Food Bank also serve the less fortunate. Each month, the Food Bank serves an average of 1,505 residents in inland Mendocino County: 51 percent are families with children; 21 percent are seniors; and 28 percent are individual households. The Food Bank distributes food provided by a federal program as well as food donated by local grocery stores, private gardens, and other donors.
Ford Street Project
Lastly, the Ford Street Project offers alcohol and drug treatment programs, including a detoxification facility. In partnership with the Ukiah Community Center and Food Bank, Ford Street provides a program to teach people who are transitioning away from dangerous drug and alcohol activities. The program, which offers employment and transitional housing, teaches participants how to meet their own basic needs (e.g., how to pay rent and buy food).
These services provided by all these non-profits are absolutely vital to the entire Ukiah Valley and greater inland Mendocino County region. Without these services, many of the homeless people here would have no place to turn. These services, and the inspiring people who provide them, help assure that people can find food, get off the street, get away from alcohol and drugs, and find meaningful employment.
Yet, even with all of these services offered for the homeless and less fortunate, we sometimes continue to give handouts, which enables people to continue destructive behaviors. Giving money to transients does not help our community. Transients use money to buy alcohol, methamphetamine, or other drugs; and the use of alcohol and drugs leads to violence.
Rather than providing handouts, if you’d like to help people, please consider giving to organizations such as Plowshares, the Food Bank and the Ukiah Community Center. For those in need, these fantastic non-profits provide the best solution—services that help people get back on their feet—and that’s good for our entire community.
Giving your donations to the agencies that provide direct services to the homeless will assure that your hard-earned dollars are spent on assistance, not alcohol and drugs. By refusing to provide handouts, you won’t encourage panhandlers to continue their behavior. And most importantly, you won’t put yourself at risk by opening your wallet or purse in front of unknown individuals.
Last Wednesday night, the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) presented an in-depth report on transient and homeless activities in our community. The report noted some of the recent trends in violence that occurred over the summer. If you’re interested in learning more, we posted the report here.
UPD’s mission is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.