Business owner navigates the system to help customer

A woman who called the newspaper last week had exhausted every option that she knew of that could help with a difficult situation. She had called the crisis center, the sheriff’s office, behavioral health, social services, and Plumas Rural Services. She had even posted on Facebook soliciting suggestions. She wasn’t seeking help for herself, but rather for a customer who had spent three nights in her motel, and now had nowhere to go.

It was complicated; agencies told her that personal information is confidential. But the motel owner was tenacious and had the best interest of her customer at heart. The motel owner learned that the customer was known to just about everyone she talked to, and other lodging providers no longer provided a room to the individual, due to past experiences. She eventually discovered that the customer was a client of behavioral health, had a case manager and was homeless.

Last week the city of Sacramento approached the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors to partner in building housing and providing services to the area’s homeless. The city had received a $64 million grant, but it wasn’t enough officials said. Its leadership sought $54 million from the county, arguing that it’s a shared problem.

The nation’s homeless population is on the rise. While there are some homeless individuals in Plumas County, the inhospitable winter climate prevents it from becoming the problem that it has become elsewhere. The motel owner said she’s been told that the customer will be taken to a city that has a homeless shelter and the individual wants to go. If all went as planned, the system will have worked, but it took the dogged efforts of a private citizen to get a response.

It wasn’t the motel owner’s problem; she could have sent the customer out onto the street, but she didn’t. “I’m just a business owner who is trying to help,” she said.

Social Services Director Elliott Smart couldn’t comment on the specifics of this case, but said that situations arise where “people want to help, but they can’t.” He said that larger jurisdictions have more community-based resources, but those options are limited locally. As for governmental agencies, they have clear guidelines to follow in providing services.

There are services for most people, as was the case with this individual. It just took a compassionate business owner to track them down. Acknowledgement of her efforts is warranted.