This is addressed to your columnist Dan Francisco. Dan, I enjoyed your article about the homeless who sought shelter from a cold night in an EDH neighborhood backyard. You lamented about the fact that you and your friends knew nothing about the homeless resources of El Dorado County and had trouble finding an appropriate response to this conundrum. Please don’t feel bad … there is not a clear-cut solution or answer, and while many good people are making progress, we have a ways to go.
You will be happy to know that during November–March, the churches around Placerville operate a nightly nomadic shelter. People can go to Mercy Way Rescue on Upper Broadway to catch a bus that will transport them to a church that will provide them a warm place to sleep that night. Our churches are “angels on earth” who help support this part of our community without any tax dollars or government grants. Their aid and support is far-reaching.
You may also be surprised to know that Placerville is on the cutting edge of creative solutions. Thanks to Art Edwards, Ron Sachs and Barry Wilkinson, working in conjunction with the city of Placerville and the Community Resource Center, we have the only legal homeless encampment in the state of California! Hangtown Haven was founded in 2012 as a pilot program to see if an encampment could work. While we’ve had to work out some bugs, it is running smoothly and is successful. There are only a few drawbacks … because Placerville is so small, you have to be a resident of Placerville (for 6 months) to qualify to live there, and all applicants need to be screened through the Community Resource Center. (Please note, camping in Placerville outside of Hangtown Haven is illegal and will be removed.) The other drawback is its current location. Upper Broadway does not have the roads and sidewalks to support a long-term arrangement, and so we are looking for alternate locations.
There are many other non-profits serving the homeless community, and yet there is no homeless shelter in El Dorado County. The County’s approach to this challenge is to funnel resources into preventing people from being homeless; at Health and Human Services there are resources for people and families who find themselves in this situation, and the Community Resource Center on Broadway can help link anyone up to those existing resources. As far as what to do once people become homeless, well, that’s another matter.
Hangtown Haven, in its present location, will have to close November 2013, and we are looking for a more appropriate location. This location was made possible by a generous citizen who agreed that this pilot program had merit and allowed Hangtown Haven and the city of Placerville to test this model on his property. It is working, and yet we need to find a better spot. If you have a heart for this cause or can help, feel free to contact me (my contact information is on the city of Placerville’s Website). A legal encampment is a good first step as we work towards a more permanent shelter.
Future possibilities include a strong volunteer program in exchange for a place to stay, which the city of Placerville is currently developing. Working for your daily needs is the reality of everyday life, and it allows us all dignity, value and a sense of responsibility. It’s also important to note that finding solutions to the homeless challenge helps everybody … it certainly helps those individuals who don’t have a warm place to sleep at night, and it helps maintain the health and vitality of our business districts and residential neighborhoods who are impacted by individuals that find themselves outside the bonds of community.
So Dan, thank you for highlighting this challenge. I invite you to help us find creative solutions so people like “John” aren’t surprised when “Jack” shows up in his backyard because he has no place to go in El Dorado County.
Mayor, City of Placerville