An event discussing homeless issues held in Banning has stirred up vehement opposition and hysteria of plans to build a shelter in the area.

A handful of dignitaries served as panelists at a Homeless Summit in September.

The dignitaries represented organizations spearheading efforts to address homelessness in the region.

Banning coordinated the summit as a forum to present and discuss homeless issues in the area through a lens.

It was not a policymaking event, but the summit has been misconstrued as being a blueprint for a concrete plan to build a homeless shelter in Banning.

Cities have held summits before without having any interests or ties to the issue being discussed.

In fact, usually its a way to bring people to a city.

One name at the summit stood out above the others: Fifth District County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, who is relatively new to the playing field.

Unlike the other panelists, who are clergy or homeless shelter coordinators on the ground, Hewitt has little direct involvement with the issue at hand.

The supervisor, however, does have name recognition - and it was Hewitt who helped draw people to the summit.

Hewitt has only been in his current post for less than a year and does not have a program, or a group home, or project that he directly has worked on to his credit.

The supervisor also lacks a resume or major accomplishment tied to homeless issues in the area to draw from, meaning he was only able to offer ideas to fill his time, as a “presenter” – like throwing spaghetti at a wall to test if anything would stick.

Banning City Manager Doug Schulze interrupted Hewitt's spaghetti throwing with his own version of pasta testing: could a homeless shelter be built in Banning?

The honest answer, legally, as Hewitt replied, was yes.

The conversation did not go further, and the discussion of a homeless shelter being built around Banning came to a pointed end.

However, from that idea, paranoia emerged.

The summit devolved into accusations that the city is festering ideas of a homeless shelter somewhere in Banning.

To be frank, the city does not have the resources to build and operate a homeless shelter in Banning, and further, no one has officially entertained the idea - not on the record, at least.

There have been assumptions Orange County has a stake in funding a shelter in Banning so they can bus individuals from its collection of cities to here.

It may sound like a plausible scenario that Orange County, with their noses high in the air, would want to just whisk away their problems to the Inland Empire, but in reality the disruption of homeless encampments and destroying personal property is not particularly easy nor is it an economical venture.

The city of San Francisco, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report in 2015, spent $3 million a year on evicting people from encampments. CityLab reported Los Angeles is on track to spend $30 million this year, which is enough to make any city thwart eviction plans.

Further, as specified in Assembly Bill 101, a county or city must comply with housing programs and provisions, i.e. homeless housing within their own jurisdictions, or else they will incur fines.

Not to mention, there are tax breaks they would be forgoing if they backed a shelter in Banning and did not invest in their own cities.

AB 101 actually makes the notion of Orange County pushing for homeless housing in Banning especially farfetched.

And even though a shelter would take the homeless individuals in our area off the sidewalks, and out of abandoned buildings, the city of Banning has not expressed a desire to sponsor homeless housing; and no one on the city's Planning Commission can claim they have been approached to discuss such a project.

Yet there is still enough out there to feed into the public's

hysteria.

There were several anonymous - and pointless - postings on social media contributing inaccurate or unverified information.

An online video spliced the presentations of Hewitt and Schulze to make it appear as if they were scheming to build a homeless shelter.

But those who actually paid attention at the summit — and further, those who know how projects get vetted and come to fruition at the municipal level — know that there was no real discussion of building a homeless shelter in Banning.

The idea was brought up.

It was mentioned.

But nothing stuck.

No promises of homeless housing of any kind were, or should be, insinuated.

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