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Supervisors approve ordinances prohibiting vagrancy-related behaviors

January 05, 2016

AUBURN, Calif. –Placer County now has a 24-hour homeless shelter operating in North Auburn. With a warm and safe place for homeless individuals to stay and a host of social services designed to get the homeless reintegrated into society, the county supervisors turned their attention to offensive and illegal behaviors often associated with vagrancy.

Today the supervisors approved three new ordinances addressing graffiti, aggressive panhandling and public urination and defecation. The board agreed that the ordinances were necessary but stressed that they are not a solution to all the problems of vagrancy.

While supporting the ordinances, District 1 Supervisor Jack Duran cautioned about their efficacy.

“If anybody thinks these ordinances are going to address and solve the problem of homelessness, I’ll tell you right now they’re not,” said Duran. “If you really want to address the homeless issue, you have to have ordinances that drive the homeless to therapy, to alcohol programs and these kinds of things.”

"This is just one piece of a much larger and more comprehensive conversation we need to have as a board and as a community," said District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery. She also thanked county staff for the extra effort put forth to ensure the ordinances balance the public concerns while preserving the legal position of the ordinances. “We wanted to make sure we brought something forward that was entirely defensible and that our partners in law enforcement would support.”

Last November, the board received a presentation on vagrancy concerns in Placer County. Residents have sent numerous communications to the board expressing concern about their communities and the degradation of safety, cleanliness and community character. Supervisors directed staff to research the issues, including reviewing similar laws and ordinances in other jurisdictions, and propose new ordinances tailored to local concerns.

The county contacted Dr. Robert Marbut, a national expert in homelessness who has worked extensively with the county on the homeless issue. Staff consulted with Marbut on how to align the new ordinances with the county’s overall approach of providing the help and resources people need to end their homelessness.  

The ordinances approved today will make the prohibited actions punishable as infractions or misdemeanors. An additional ordinance addressing open alcohol containers is expected to go before the board in February. County staff continue to explore options for relocating the temporary homeless shelter in North Auburn to a more suitable long-term location.

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