Placer supervisors expand homeless outreach efforts at North Auburn government center campus
Published on March 31, 2021
Placer County is stepping up its efforts to address health and safety concerns in response to a growing number of homeless encampments at its government center campus in North Auburn.
In a unanimous decision, the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to support increased funding for outreach and support services on the campus - approving spending up to $667,000 to devote more staff time from the Sheriff’s Office, Probation Department, Adult System of Care and Animal Services to engage with homeless campers and their pets later into the evening. The funding will also support improved safety and sanitation with more security fencing, cameras, portable toilets and trash removal.
The changes are expected to be implemented immediately.
As demolition work and construction of the Mercy Housing workforce housing project continue at the Placer County Government Center, securing construction areas has become increasingly important for the safety of everyone on the campus.
“We need to manage the problem at the DeWitt center primarily. We’ve got people coming back to work and we’ll have people coming for services. It’s a health and safety issue,” said District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes. “Homelessness touches every one of our departments and offices and this collaborative approach is really helpful. I look forward to a more positive approach in handling the issues of homelessness.”
Placer’s strategy and investments to reduce homelessness seem to have prevented worse impacts in recent years. While homelessness fluctuates from year to year and is tied to broader economic trends, Placer saw reductions in the number of chronically homeless - those who’ve been unhoused longer than a year or who have repeatedly fallen into homelessness - supported by investments in its Whole Person Care and Full Service Partnerships programs targeting the most vulnerable residents.
Yet homelessness began to increase again in 2020, likely driven by growing housing scarcity and costs. The COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated homelessness. According to the county’s Health and Human Services department, between November 2020 and February 2021, the number of homeless encampments on the Placer County Government Center campus increased by 15%. The trend is in line with increases reported regionally and nationally, though Placer’s incidence of homelessness remains the lowest in the greater Sacramento area.
Placer County continues to help fund homeless shelter services provided by The Gathering Inn, both for their shelter services in south Placer and their operation of Placer’s emergency homeless shelter at the PCGC campus. It has also used state and federal COVID-19 relief funding to house those experiencing or at-risk of homelessness through the Project Roomkey and Project Homekey programs, Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program and, most recently, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
To date, Placer County has given a greater share of its federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding to local businesses and nonprofit organizations than any county in California to support the community through the challenges of COVID-19. Much of this funding went to critical social safety net organizations working to help prevent even more residents from falling into homelessness.
Placer County will continue to coordinate homelessness efforts through its interdisciplinary Homeless Liaison Team, comprised of staff from the Sheriff’s Office, Probation, and Health and Human Services mental health practitioners, as well as with neighboring jurisdictions, to address the increase in homelessness throughout the region cooperatively. Additional reports to the Board of Supervisors on these efforts are anticipated later this year.