Community Editorial: Kelly Thomas Death Has Galvanized Fullerton

kellythomas050712p
Print More

As the City Council recall election results trickled in last Tuesday night, the City Council received the final report of the Fullerton Task Force on the Mentally Ill Homeless.

Seven of eight recommendations received the unanimous support of the City Council. One recommendation brought a request for more information from one council member before receiving his support.

Engaging hundreds of residents in the process of imagining an ideal community, the task force sought to bring Fullerton together around a plan to prevent tragedies like the death of Kelly Thomas.

Following a process of learning best models from other communities, listening to parents of the mentally ill, hearing the voices of homeless people and incorporating the best regional experts in behavioral health and homelessness prevention, the Task Force journey was cathartic for the members and the dozens of residents who participated in every step of the process.

Some of the recommendations were already implemented by the time the ink was dry on the formal report, like:

  • The provision of a mental health clinician by the county to work with the Fullerton police in doing outreach to the mentally ill and homeless; and
  • Increased use of various public locations to provide information to homeless people about services.

One of the recommendations found support when Pathways to Hope board Chair Barbara Jennings announced that a donor had come forward to offer support for the census of the homeless.

Others are in process, like the regional collaboration to create a year-round, low-threshold shelter to replace the armory, led by Supervisor Shawn Nelson.

Some will take planning and financing efforts that will take years, like the call for permanent housing with care for those living with mental illness.

As task force chair and lifelong Fullertonian, I am determined to make this most challenging objective a reality.

The Faith Community Forum, comprising the First Christian Church, Temple Beth Tikvah, Fullerton Congregational Church, OCCCO, the Fullerton Collaborative and various other churches and religious organizations, delivered 300 petitions to the City Council and pledged to continue in their efforts, both private and with the city.

The death of Kelly Thomas has galvanized us as a community to look closely at ourselves for what we can do to provide a safer community for this vulnerable and troubled element of our city.

The city of Fullerton through the Task Force on the Mentally Ill and Homeless seeks to start the healing process.

Rusty Kennedy is executive director of the Orange County Human Relations Commission and a member of the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board.

Comments are closed.