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Placer Supervisors approve extension of homeless shelter services, hold off on funding decision

August 18, 2015

The Placer County Board of Supervisors today voted to allow Right Hand Auburn and Volunteers of America to expand the hours and services provided at the temporary emergency homeless shelter at the Placer County Government Center campus in north Auburn. 

The approval allows the nonprofit groups to extend operating hours to 24/7, serve more people each day, and it permits on-site food preparation and delivery of social services. It defers, however, a decision on how much county funding, if any, to provide toward the expanded operation until county staff can thoroughly analyze the costs of expanding the services and offer more detailed information.

The new agreement and temporary use permit will both now be in effect until March 31, 2016. Supervisors clearly stated that they hope to have a permanent location for a shelter identified before that date.     

In a presentation to the board, Leo McFarland, CEO of Volunteers of America of northern California and Nevada, said that the shelter has achieved its goal of providing the kind of services shelter residents need to end their homelessness. “This has been a lifesaver for so many,” McFarland said. “Eight folks have gotten employment while staying at the shelter. We know we have at least another dozen folks who are interviewing for jobs. This has been the place for these men and women, at least for a short respite, to stabilize and take care of some of their business.”

“I was really glad to hear that folks are getting addressed, that some of those using the shelter are getting jobs and turning their lives around,” said First District Supervisor Jack Duran. “That’s really what my motivation was to assist these folks. I don’t view it as a hand out. I view it as hand up, so they can resume contributing in a positive way to the community.” 

In February, the board approved a site-access agreement allowing Right Hand Auburn and Volunteers of America to open the shelter in a county-owned building as a three-month pilot project. The agreement includes a requirement that community meetings be held regularly once the shelter opens, so the public and county employees have a platform for offering comments, voicing concerns and sharing incidents that may arise from shelter operations.

Under the original agreement, the shelter provided only overnight shelter for up to 47 people nightly and, without commercial food preparation facilities, operators relied on food donations to feed guests. An amended agreement approved today would accommodate up to 75 people with 24/7 access, as well as add on-site food preparation facilities and storage of personal belongings. The extended opening hours in particular are expected to increase use of the shelter, thereby improving access to essential services for the homeless, and reducing the incidence of daytime loitering in nearby neighborhoods.

Placer County continues to work on potential long-term solutions recommended by Dr. Robert Marbut, a nationally known expert hired by the county to conduct a comprehensive homeless needs assessment and develop an action plan. The expansion of temporary shelter services is in line with Marbut’s recommendations.

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