Hollister Police Chief David Westrick responded on Facebook Wednesday to a BenitoLink story discussing community concerns about the homeless at Dunne Park. The chief gave permission to share his thoughts on our site, including his urging for locals to not provide food, clothing and money directly to the homeless — instead donating to the local food bank, the planned homeless shelter, or by volunteering time.

Here’s what he wrote:

“We have struggled with this problem locally for a long time. The issues we are experiencing are unfortunately not unique to Hollister. People say ‘get them out of the parks! We pay taxes, use that money to get them away!’ My response:

To where would these people go locally? Do they have the same civil rights and protections as all of us? Because we pay taxes, are our rights and protections more important than that of a homeless person? Do homeless people have the right of freedom of movement, free speech, etc.?

These are all hard questions we must answer. We must be smarter than the problem. This isn’t politics; it’s about the human condition. It is about having a clean, safe city. It’s about providing a way out for some of these folks. It’s probably also about figuring out a way to prosecute the most heinous violators in a way that our justice system can stomach and adjudicate. Maybe it’s about pooling a few dollars together and getting some of these folks transportation to their families. I don’t know all the answers, but I am committed to figuring out what I can. 

I will need your help though. I need you to please completely STOP taking food, clothing and money to them. Please take your clothing, food and money to the Community Food bank, the new homeless shelter (opening in December) and please volunteer your time and be an example to your neighbors and children. Please send letters to your local and state lawmakers to write smart legislation to help us abate these problems WHILE we help these folks get a leg to stand on. 

This is a all hands-on-deck request folks. 

If you have any ideas at all feel free to email me at info@police.hollister.ca.us.