Santa Rosa Police Officers Jason Brandt and Brian Sinigiani sat in a police van by the Fifth Street underpass during a weekly Wednesday morning homeless encampment cleanup. Those living on the street knew the officers by name, and the officers knew theirs, their addictions and their stories.

Brandt and Sinigiani estimated there are more than 200 chronically homeless in downtown Santa Rosa with whom they are on a first name basis. Nearly all have been offered services, they said.

“We’re trying to take away all of the excuses and break down the barriers to get them off the street,” Sinigiani said. “We’re really social workers with a law enforcement aspect.”

Sinigiani and his partner are among the top sources of referrals to Catholic Charities’ Homeless Outreach Services Team. But they take the law seriously and aren’t afraid to make arrests and write citations. Brandt said he makes more arrests now than he did while working patrol.

Read more at The Press Democrat…

David Lopez woke up wet and shivering on the ground behind a row of hedges in downtown Monterey. To say he woke up might be saying too much. The chilly night didn’t give him much rest. As the first pedestrians of the day started walking by his sleeping quarters, he pulled himself up, brushed off as much mud as he could and made his way down to the waterfront hoping he could find company with one of his few friends.

Lopez is a sturdily built man who once lived a violent life on the streets of Salinas, but at 66, life outside is wearing on him. He says he feels tired. He looks exhausted. He wonders if a trip to the ER or a night or two in jail might make him feel better. But what he really wants is a backpack, or better yet, a blanket. His was stolen a few days earlier, making life in the darkening days of late November harder than normal.

He walks toward Cannery Row where his friend Douglas slept on the beach. Douglas finds himself on the streets for a different reason: Substance abuse and likely mental illness stripped him of his tenuous hold on a working-class existence. Lopez, on the other hand, says he was released from prison in 2012 after spending 35 years behind bars, a senior citizen with no family to stay with, and no marketable skills.

Read more at Monterey County Weekly…