Locals reach out to help homeless man in Fairfield
The Fairfield Police Department and The Fairfield Ledger have received feedback from the community about a dispatch call entry regarding a homeless man published in the police report in Wednesday’s Ledger.
The log reported the man was wearing only a blanket and last seen walking toward Ottumwa.
Police Chief Julie Harvey said today the caller reported the man was wearing only a blanket but in fact he was wearing several layers of clothing, a winter jacket and a sleeping bag, and was given a ride to Ottumwa.
“He had visited with Sandy Stever a few times,” said Harvey. “He had been picked up and taken to a shelter in Iowa City.”
Stever is the Central Point of Coordination for Jefferson County Mental Health Department. Harvey said the man was talking to himself, but he was not threatening to harm anyone or himself.
“I’ve had calls saying we should have taken him to the hospital or sheltered him in someone’s residence,” said Harvey.
“We cannot commit someone involuntarily unless they are a threat to themselves or someone else,” she said. “We can’t ask a resident to take him in, because we don’t know the person or what could happen.”
She said the nearest shelters to Fairfield are in Iowa City and Des Moines.
“Apparently, the guy doesn’t like bigger cities and worked his way down from Iowa City in a few days. Someone gave him a ride into Fairfield,” she said.
The Fairfield Ministerial Alliance comprised of local churches provides some emergency shelter, said Harvey.
“The rule is if a person is not an area resident, they are allowed one night’s shelter per year,” she said. “An ID is required because the police run a background check on people before the ministerial alliance will assist.
“This guy had a California warrant, but the state wouldn’t extradite. A local pastor did put him up one night,” said Harvey.
The ministerial alliance provides a voucher to a local hotel for a night’s stay.
“Someone picked him up the next day and took him to Hy-Vee and fed him,” she said. “He showed back up at the pastor’s office and he was put up a second overnight in a hotel. Everyone was so nice to him; he didn’t want to leave Fairfield. People around town talked to him; people fed him.”
Harvey said the problem is bigger than Fairfield or Jefferson County.
“He was picked up in Henry County and brought to the Jefferson County line,” said Harvey. “That’s how it works. That’s when a Fairfield woman picked him up and tried to find help for him.
“People with mental health issues have rights, and we don’t have the resources to help people, so the problem is perpetuated,” she said. “We don’t have the funding and the mental health system is broken.”
After the man’s second overnight in Fairfield, the pastor drove him to Ottumwa, Harvey said. He hasn’t been seen in Fairfield since.