Last week, the mayor of one of California’s largest cities spent a night sleeping in a cardboard box under the freeway in order to learn more about the plight of the homeless.
“I thought I would come out here for a night to spend a night with the homeless to see what it is that they go through,” Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva told Fox 40 on Friday as he readied his home for the evening.
During the outing, Silva visited with a number homeless people living in Stockton. He met one homeless man, Tim Barfield, who had been working 60 hours every week at an asphalt company before it went under. “From having that to nothing,” Barfield said. “Now I’m out here.” Barfield now lives in a tent with his pregnant girlfriend and is trying to find a permanent place to live before their child is born.
Watch footage from Fox 40‘s report:
Last year’s homeless census found 1,541 homeless people living in Stockton and the surrounding area. Though homelessness has been falling in Stockton recently — it’s down nearly 50 percent since 2010 — it remains nearly double the national level on per-capita basis.
The homelessness crisis was underscored when, the same night Silva slept outside, a 50-year-old homeless man was run over by a driver and killed in the same city. His name has yet to be released.
The severity of the problem in Stockton is what led Silva to learn more firsthand about homelessness. “Communities have to step up and come with answers and solutions on their own,” he said. One such proposal he’s putting forth is a new community resource center directed towards the city’s homeless population.
It’s quickly becoming a trend for lawmakers to spend time with the homeless. In December, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) shadowed a homeless person for a day to learn more about the challenges he faced. Meanwhile, Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) recently stayed overnight in homeless shelters.