CHANCELL-ING: Finding Solutions to Help Unhoused People

Veterinarians examine cat
UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine DVM student Casey Conlon (left) and faculty mentor Leslie Woods examine Mow Mow the cat at the Davis Pet Advocacy and Wellness clinic, which treats pets of people without housing.

CHANCELL-ING: Finding Solutions to Help Unhoused People

Homelessness is one of the most defining and troubling challenges of our times. According to a report by CalMatters, a nonprofit and nonpartisan news organization, about 173,800 unhoused people are living in California. That’s an increase of more than 22,000 since 2019.

Gary May Chancell-ing A Town-Gown Newspaper Column

We see the effects of this crisis around Davis, including tent encampments and people living in vehicles. Solving this problem is especially complex, with sharp increases in the costs of living, an epidemic of opioid abuse, availability of mental health services and other factors contributing to the rising state of homelessness.  

It will take a diverse and determined group of minds to help ease this crisis. And, it will take collaboration from all over the community to help make a difference.

Research and direct support

UC Davis is driven to be part of the solution and provide community support. Our scholars are researching the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on unhoused people, and the UC Davis Center for Poverty & Inequality Research is a hub for studying the complex dynamics that surround this issue and broader topics of inequity as well.

We are also taking action. We’re looking out for unhomed people and their pets. Davis Pet Advocacy and Wellness is a satellite of the Mercer Clinic, a nonprofit run by UC Davis veterinary students, that provides free veterinary care to pets of homeless people in Davis. You’ll find them regularly at such places as the Daytime Homeless Respite Center at Fifth and L streets.

Under the guidance of volunteer veterinarians, these students perform wellness exams, address ear infections, draw lab samples and oversee the health of these vulnerable animals. In the meantime, the Mercer Clinic’s Holiday Pet Baskets program is underway, which gives toys, treats and even coats and sweaters for homeless people and their cats and dogs. This year, 130 baskets will be distributed in the region.

There’s also HOPE at Davis, a UC Davis student-run organization that focuses on homeless outreach. Their work includes providing free haircuts, offering first aid kits along with laundry services and meals for some of our city’s unhoused residents.

Hearts for the Homeless at UC Davis is working hard to raise funds and provide health education services. That includes providing free blood pressure readings, passing out wellness kits and offering heart health information.

A focus on basic needs

In turn, I am committed to addressing the basic needs of students, especially when it comes to housing. A recent survey found that nearly 7 percent of those who responded were homeless for a period of time. It also revealed that almost 18 percent of respondents experienced either homelessness or another form of housing insecurity.

Our Student Emergency Relief Aid program gives short-term funds to students who are facing financial emergencies. The university offers emergency and short-term housing for students who are homeless or in imminent danger of becoming homeless. In the meantime, the Affordable Student Housing Task Force that I established in 2018 continues to gather data, identify funding and make recommendations to address housing insecurity.

I encourage readers to lend a hand where you can. Offer to volunteer at Davis Community Housing and Meals, which assists homeless people with meals, food and social services. The Yolo Food Bank is a crucial source of addressing food insecurity in Davis and the county, and is always in need of volunteers to help deliver and distribute much needed goods. The Short Term Emergency Aid Committee, or STEAC, is also accepting donations for its food pantry and food drives at 624 Hawthorn Lane each Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

With some charity and goodwill, and a wide variety of minds working together, I know we can create a better tomorrow and ensure that everyone has a place to call home.