The Highland Community News applauds the efforts to help the homeless who populate obscure parts of town with illegal encampments.
The biggest challenge seems to be convincing the homeless that they need help. Many seem to prefer the untethered life of drug abuse and wanderlust.
However, the city is doing the right thing by expanding its Quality of Life effort. The task force now includes two sheriff’s deputies, four code enforcement officers, and a probation officer working in close coordination with each other and neighboring cities.
Part of this effort is the new franchise agreement with Burrtec Waste Industries that will provide the fourth code enforcement officer to focus on trash and recycling. The agreement also says Burrtec will take over cleaning up debris from the city’s right-of-way.
Capt. Sam Fisk, Highland’s chief of police, emphasizes cooperation with property owners — especially absentee owners who rarely have a clue about what’s going on at their properties. This is where cooperation between code enforcement and cops becomes critical.
The task force has been working with property owners to get them to sign a Letter of Agency, which pre-authorizes police to arrest, cite of remove trespassers from private property.
Prosperity also helps. Code Enforcement Officer Gerald Cox told our reporter, Hector Henandez Jr., that at the start of the program out of 16,000 parcels, 600 were vacant. That number is dropping thanks to a healthy economy.
The Point in Time Homeless Count conducted in January found 2,119 homeless people in San Bernardino County, 49 of them in Highland. In the past year, 19 more people have become homeless in Highland.
With Highland’s unemployment rate standing at 3.4 percent, it’s mystifying why anyone would choose to be homeless here or why anyone would want to live outdoors in this hot and muggy weather.
What’s most important is the personal contact the deputies provide. Jonathan Ramstad, one of the two problem-oriented police officers, said the coordination with code enforcement has helped.
“There are things I can do that they can’t do, they can do things that I can’t, but when we work together it’s an unstoppable force,” he said.
The poor ye shall always have with you? We hope not.