Placer Supervisors vote to fund North Auburn homeless shelter services

Published on October 07, 2015

The Placer County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 today to provide more than $265,000 in funding to continue providing services at the temporary emergency homeless shelter at the Placer County Government Center campus in North Auburn.

The board had previously voted to allow the nonprofit groups Right Hand Auburn and Volunteers of America to expand services to 24/7, but postponed a decision on whether to provide county funding until cost estimates provided by the operating agencies were refined and analyzed by county staff.

“I don’t think there’s a single person on this board who thinks that the shelter at DeWitt is the long-term solution. It’s not,” said District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery. “But the alternative, if we don’t have it, is more people on the street.”

The approved funding includes $40,000 for modest upgrades to the temporary facility in line with the approved site access agreement, and provides Right Hand Auburn and Volunteers of America $225,216 to fund services through March 31, 2016.

The board heard from dozens of community members both in support of and opposed to county funding for the shelter, many of whom cited safety concerns from vagrancy in the community. In voting to approve funding, the board directed county staff to work closely with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office to coordinate a stronger approach to enforcement of existing statutes.

“We have an obligation to meet the needs of those people who find themselves in the condition of homelessness, but have a desire to change,” said Board Chairman and District 4 Supervisor Kirk Uhler. “But at the same time we have an obligation to the people we serve, the residents of the North Auburn area and the city of Auburn. And we’re not going to tolerate the destruction of the North Auburn area by people who have no interest in doing anything to help themselves or anyone around them.”

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.

An amended agreement approved in August accommodates 24/7 access and more people during inclement winter weather, as well as 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.
“To implement Dr. Marbut’s model, which we as a board adopted and endorsed, we need to go to 24/7, to allow access to the many services we provide for folks in need,” said Supervisor Montgomery. “If we’re kicking them out again in the morning, they don’t have the opportunity to get those services.”