It was cleanup Wednesday as volunteers from the Community Resource Center cleared out abandoned homesites and trash left on the hillside between Broadway and Hwy. 50.
Amanda Weaver, a volunteer with CRC and one of those coordinating the cleanup said, “All this was left by earlier homeless people who have been living up here for 20 years. The newer generation didn’t want to live like that. We’re just removing all the garbage and abandoned sites and making it safe.”
Armed with gloves and garbage bags, 15 volunteers hauled out four tons of mattresses, broken lawn chairs, rusty cans, blankets, golf clubs, and other trash. Helping were Ricky Mullican, James Covington and Larry Allun, who worked from early morning until mid-afternoon.
The clean up was initiated by Rene Evans, who is the director of CRC, along with representatives from the group, Citizens in Transition. They coordinated their efforts with the City of Placerville and businesses who donated services or products.
CRC provided the team of volunteers. The City of Placerville blocked Broadway while the work was being done and carved out a pathway for removing the trash. McDonalds chipped in with a 10 gallon jug of water and cups. Save Mart donated the trash bags. And El Dorado Disposal donated the containers and drivers to haul the trash away.
Debi Harlow, who works for El Dorado Disposal, said she walked through the area last week. “It was heartbreaking to see all the young people and elderly living there. It was tent city.” She said the company frequently volunteers to help on projects like this. “We do this a lot because it’s the right thing to do,” she said.
Meanwhile one volunteer, Ginella Messer, took a break after working all morning. Sitting on a chair at her home site, Messer said that until recently she was earning a good living taking care of her seven-year old son who had cerebral palsy. But when he died last year, she was left with an income of only a few hundred dollars and no place to turn. Pulling down one corner of her shirt, she showed me the hand print of her son that is tattooed over her heart. She’s been homeless and living in the camp for three months.
Many of those at CRC tell stories similar to that of Messer. Weaver, who volunteers in the CRC office, said that they had roughly six new intakes in the last two weeks but had no place to put them. “They were often victims of quick sale evictions,” she said.
Plans are currently being discussed to establish a legal camp for the homeless south of Broadway between CRC and the Hangtown Motel.
Placerville City Manager Cleve Morris said the project is still a work in progress since the city doesn’t own the property. Once established, people would be moved there and allowed to stay for up to six months while CRC found them permanent housing.
Meanwhile, the cleanup proceeded. Marie Cook, who is the Operations Manager at CRC, said they would stay open late so those who worked could get a shower and have their clothes washed.
“They really worked hard and it’s the least we can do,” she said.