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Our Community Focus

August Martinez Mayor's Message

Jul 31, 2016 07:52PM ● By Rob Schroder

Rob Schroder, Mayor of Martinez


Each of the 19 cities in Contra Costa County have unique attributes that set their downtowns apart. Concord has Todos Santos Plaza, Pleasant Hill has Crescent Drive, and Clayton has Concerts in the Grove. Martinez has a historic and quaint downtown adjacent to the waterfront with a cluster of government buildings that loom above all others.

Since Contra Costa became a county, Martinez has been the county seat, and host to all that that designation brings. This includes the board of supervisors, sheriff, district attorney, superior courts, county hospital and welfare services thus bringing employees, attorneys, jurors, defendants and the general public from all over the East Bay into downtown Martinez. It also brings in those released from jail, released mentally ill patients, and individuals seeking welfare services and support. This has created a huge challenge for the Martinez Police Department, public works and the businesses in the downtown.

But about 12 years ago a gentleman by the name of Doug Stewart appeared on the scene and offered his help to the city in stemming our problem of homelessness. Doug had started to seek out solutions to the homeless issues in Pacheco as a member of the Pacheco Municipal Advisory Council by going out at night and finding homeless people in his community and getting them help. He would provide blankets, socks, personal hygiene kits and rides to BART or a bus. Thus was born the Pacheco Homeless Outreach. 

Doug expanded the operation into Martinez and we immediately saw the benefit. To help defray costs, the city granted Doug a small amount of money, which eventually turned into a budget line item of $30,000 per year. The organization became Pacheco/Martinez Homeless Outreach.

Soon the communities of Richmond and Concord saw the good work Doug and his volunteer crew were accomplishing and they contracted for his services. The organization then became Contra Costa Homeless Outreach. For years they went out almost every night of the week, seeking out the homeless and getting them the services they needed: clean and dry socks, a blanket, a ride to a shelter.

For a multitude of reasons, including financial and personal, Doug has decided to retire from this line of work and shut the organization down. All operations ceased on June 30, leaving a gaping hole in homeless services in Contra Costa County.

As a result, I recently met with Police Chief Manjit Sappal, City Manager Brad Kilger, Doug and Bill Schiltz, (Homeless Outreach board member). We wanted Doug and Bill to explain what we should expect to find in the Martinez homeless community. Where the encampments are, who are the regulars they dealt with, what challenges they had, and what they thought needed to be done.

Out of that meeting we have mapped some initial strategy on how to move forward and not only continue, but improve the services that Contra Costa Homeless Outreach has been providing the homeless, and therefore the entire Martinez Community. And since homelessness is not just a Martinez problem, we will be contacting other cities to see if they will have an interest in working with us.

Through the generosity of Tesoro and a grant of $90,000 over three years, combined with the money already allocated in the police department, we will be able to get started.