As rain approaches, North Bay leaders help find shelter for the homeless

As the rain began to fall Thursday, Solano County wrapped up a three-day outreach effort to bring homeless people inside.  

As many as 40 professionals from more than a dozen agencies were involved in the push, traipsing into creek beds and underpasses where people live outdoors.

"Hey it's good to see you again, how you been, you guys doing okay?" said Solano County Sheriff's Deputy Aaron Wilson, approaching a couple camping near Highway 37 in Vallejo. 

"I got all kind of folks here with all kinds of good stuff for you again, you guys interested?" he cajoled. 

Right behind Wilson, trooped a dozen people, from social services to animal control. 

On the spot, they were able to offer help with food stamps, Medi-Cal, identification problems, counseling, and job referrals.  

"Everything is brought to the individual on the street, which is key," Wilson told KTVU.

"Many of these people are not reachable otherwise, so we're able to get into areas non-profits normally wouldn't go." 

Over three days, they've scoured 9 known encampments in Fairfield and 15 in Vallejo, making contact with more than 100 homeless people. 

"We're not expecting you to be perfect coming in, or leaving," one worker told a woman, who had crawled from the tent she shares with her husband. 

The team keeps the conversation casual, creating trust.

There is no judgment- and no citations.    

"We tell them the purpose is not to take them to jail," said Vallejo Police Lt. Kenny Park, " our purpose is to try to help you, get back on your feet and find long term solutions so you don't have to live like this."  

Under an overpass where railroad tracks are littered with debris, seven people were contacted Thursday, and none wanted to leave. 

Criminal behavior, mental illness, and addiction are often hurdles. 

But some people are ready.

"I figured they were cops, just messing with people," said 60 year old Jerry Bernard, a Vallejo native and admitted alcoholic who had been sleeping behind a health club.

Bernard readily agreed to a ride to the shelter, when he was told his dog could come to. 

As he detoxes from alcohol, he says he hopes to enter a sober living house, and stay off the street.  

"I'm a miserable old man," said Bernard, "and when you get older and broken down, it is hard." 

Bernard is among 17 people who elected to enter the shelter in Fairfield, during this week's outreach effort. 

"I don't mind following a couple rules," he told KTVU, "and they don't have that many of them, so it's not that hard to stay here."

The multi-agency, compassionate approach is in its third year. 

It doesn't work with every person, immediately, but sometimes they refuse help, then show up for services later. 

"I'm proud of you, I'm glad you're coming in," Stephanie Stevens told one couple, after they consented to come into the shelter as long as they could bring their three cats.

"We will be looking for you two tomorrow," said Stevens, "and we will come get you if you want us to."

It's kindness that can be hard to refuse. 

"It feels really good," said Stevens, who is the Manager of Shelter Services at Mission Solano Shelter in Fairfield. 

"We can change lives, and these people deserve that. They deserve to know they're loved and cared about because when you're out there, it's tough."