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Hollister Police chief responds to concerns about homeless

David Westrick says "this isn't about politics; it's about the human condition"

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

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Adam Breen (Adam Breen)

Adam Breen has been a San Benito County resident since 1980 and graduated from Sacred Heart School and San Benito High School before earning a bachelor's degree from California State University, Fresno. A father of two sons, Adam has taught newspaper, English and yearbook at SBHS for the past decade, after six years as a magazine editor for Santa Clara University. He previously was editor of the Hollister Free Lance and content director for BenitoLink.


Submitted by Sharlene Van Rooy (frasha) on

How about starting a Downtown Streets Team in Hollister? Sounds like a great program (active all over the Bay Area) that allows the homeless population to be part of the solution. The website has lots of great videos and interviews. I encourage everyone to take a look.

In reference to the rights of homeless people—no matter where any of us rest our heads at night, we all have the same civil rights and protections and being a taxpayer does not make us special. However, we all have a responsibility to obey the same rules and regulations. Being homeless should not automatically give one the right to disturb the peace, loiter, pee in public, use and sell drugs in public, or steal grocery carts. Without intervention of these types of activities, we are sending the message that it is acceptable behavior.

After my “speech” on homelessness, I propose a temporary solution, so please read on and suffer through the lecture –

I am very pessimistic, I call it realistic, on the homeless issue.  Most survey answers to the question “why are you homeless?” are simplistic whereas most actual cases are complex with economic, social and mental issues all playing some part.  You know them so I won’t go into detail.

The shelter now in progress may help somewhat, but if shelters could solve the problem it would have been solved long ago.  It is not a panacea, shelters have rules – as they must - and many homeless avoid places with rules unless the weather drives them there.

SF spends $281 million a year on the problem and they still have it.  That equates to $18 million a year for SBC; they have the money, we don’t.

So here is my proposal, just remember that half a solution is better than none and don’t call me cruel or uncaring, I’m just being practical.

The people who live in the Dunne Park neighborhood need relief.  Find somewhere in the city-county that is relatively safe, relatively out of the way and relatively accessible for the homeless and make it the unofficial homeless encampment and essentially move or “encourage” the homeless into that area and then look the other way.  Finding a suitable temporary location is the hard part.

That way they are out of the residential or commercial areas and social services, mental health, EMS and the police know where to find them and we can supply some unofficial help such as portable toilets, etc.

It's a lousy “solution” but the best one among the do-able options.

Marty Richman

annross's picture
Submitted by ANN ROSS (annross) on

As our County population increases we are able request and qualify for increased State assistance to provide 24 hour mental health (overnight) care.  With no place to go for the some of the homeless who are mentally ill needing increased assistance to be set on course to receive appropriate long term care/medications, we will continue to exacerbate part of our homeless issue. 

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