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County Hosts First Community Meeting on Homeless Shelter

June 12, 2015

Placer County hosted the first in a series of community forums Thursday on a temporary homeless shelter that opened June 1 in North Auburn.

More than 50 people attended the meeting, expressing a wide range of opinions about the shelter, homeless campers who frequent a nearby lawn area and other issues dealing with homelessness. Most agreed there are no easy answers to issues that communities across the nation are dealing with.

“Homelessness is not a new issue,” explained Health and Human Services Director Jeff Brown during introductory comments. “We’re like all communities in California and all communities across the United States.”

He emphasized that the primary purpose of Thursday’s meeting was to listen to comments from county employees and the public, noting that three independent, but related developments are focusing attention on homelessness in Placer County:

  • The recent opening of a temporary shelter in a county-owned building at the Placer County Government Center (PCGC), a North Auburn campus commonly known as the DeWitt Center;
  • A homeless encampment on the PCGC grounds, which the Board of Supervisors will consider addressing this coming Tuesday with review and potential adoption of a proposed ordinance that would prohibit camping and storing personal property on most county properties and public areas, including the government center; and
  • A recent homeless needs assessment and proposed action plan developed for the county by Dr. Robert Marbut, a nationally known expert on homelessness.

The shelter is operated by Volunteers of America with funding from a local nonprofit group, Right Hand Auburn. The facility provides overnight shelter to adult men and women seven days a week.

The Board of Supervisors approved the shelter as a three-month pilot project with a condition that a series of community forums be held to provide county employees and the public a platform for offering comments and voicing concerns about the shelter.

Future forums are scheduled to be held on June 25, July 9, July 23, Aug. 6 and Aug. 20. Each will take place at 5:30 p.m. in the Planning Commission Chambers at the Community Development Resource Center, 3091 County Center Drive in North Auburn.

People who were unable to attend Thursday’s meeting can submit online questions, comments and other information by going to www.placer.ca.gov/homeless.  Messages will be forwarded to county staff for consideration at the next meeting.

Feedback from employees and the public will be taken into consideration when the county decides whether to allow the shelter to remain open after the 90-day trial period.

In a staff report on the proposed ordinance, the county Facility Service Department emphasizes that camping on county properties other than approved campgrounds creates public health and safety issues that need to be addressed.

“Through adoption of this ordinance and with the recent opening of the temporary emergency shelter at the PCGC, campers will be encouraged to engage in services with the ultimate goal of self-sufficiency,” the staff report explains, referring to the homeless campers at the government center.

If the board approves the proposed ordinance Tuesday, it will return to the board for a second reading and possible final approval on July 7. If adopted, the ordinance will go into effect on Aug. 6.

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