After Placerville City Council approved a 90-day special use permit allowing a temporary encampment for homeless individuals in the city, action was immediate. ”A fluid work in progress,” according to City Manager Cleve Morris, the plans for Hangtown Haven began to solidify by Friday afternoon when the newly established non-profit corporation, Hangtown Haven Inc. took over as the lead agency to finance, build and oversee the legal encampment.
Hangtown Haven Inc. is the leasee on the 90-day free lease with property owner Barry Wilkinson. While it will oversee the general operation of the encampment, Citizens in Transition, an organization of homeless individuals, will be responsible for the day-to-day operation and maintenance of the camp.
Art Edwards, homeless coordinator for the city, is the president of Hangtown Haven Inc. He is in charge of the engineering and design part of the camp and is the liason with all the stakeholders, while Ron Sachs of JSS Ministeries will oversee the camp operations and take care of fundraising. Jim Ellsworth is Hangtown Haven Inc.’s treasurer.
“The city and fire department are monitoring the prep work, making sure there is enough water and the dust is kept down,” said Placerville Community Development and Engineering Director Mike Webb.
Bulldozers manned by the Reed brothers, Russ and Robbie, and volunteers began the grading and clearing out process on Saturday and continued the rest of the week.
“The fire marshall wants a 10-foot cleared space on either side of the road. After the grading and clearing and the drainage ditches and erosion controls, we’ll put up the fencing,” said Edwards.
The camp, located close to the Hangtown Motel, has a hammerhead turnaround for parking and a common area for gathering. The donated portable toilets and washstations will be located in the common area as well as the trash dumpster donated by El Dorado Disposal, although the camp will not have water during the 90-day trial period. Tents will be placed in a separate area, up along a roadway behind the common area, with a walkway between each row of tents.
“We don’t know how many tents we’ll have yet until we meet with the city and fire department about the capacity,” said Edwards. “And each homeless person in the camp will level their own site.”
A second temporary special use permit, establishing the operation of the encampment, has yet to be approved by city staff. “The first special use permit allowed improvements to be made on the property to allow an encampment and authorized city staff to approve a second special use permit,” said Placerville Finance Director Dave Warren. “The second special use permit will allow the encampment to operate and establish the number of people and shelters allowed in the camp, and address health and safety issues.”
“The city will be working with the fire department and Hangtown Haven Inc. and other stakeholders to delineate all the conditions for the camp, including its capacity,” said Webb. “We want to make sure the scope of the camp doesn’t go beyond the 90-day temporary use permit.”
No children will be allowed in the co-ed camp.
“We have other organizations in the county that provide for families with children,” said Edwards. “We are filling a niche here that no one has yet addressed. I’ve been working toward this for the past 10 years and now, with the population growing because of the economy, the city has taken a very serious approach to helping the homeless.”
Success for the 90-day trial encampment will depend mostly upon the homeless population of the camp, said Edwards. “They will govern themselves and do the day-to-day operations including registering each occupant with the camp host. They are very excited about this and committed to making this a success.”
It was originally planned for the Community Resource Center to be the leasee and oversee the camp, but the CRC did not have the type of liability insurance required. It will continue to provide shower and laundry facilities for the homeless as well as the other services it currently provides.
At the July 10 Placerville City Council meeting, the city was willing to sign the 90-day lease, but the establishment of Hangtown Haven Inc. relieved it of the responsibility.
“Hangtown Haven Inc. has been very proactive about going forward with the project,” said Warren. “The city is trying to work with them to make this a successful project.”
During the 90-day trial period the camp is up, the city, the property owner, Hangtown Haven Inc. and the fire department will be meeting to determine how the project is going and to decide if it should continue.
“We don’t know yet whether this will be a year-around camp or whether it will close for the winter and the homeless will go to the rotating nomadic shelters during the cold weather,” said Edwards. “That will be one of the questions we’ll be exploring.”
Until the improvement work on the property is completed and the conditions for the operation of the camp are spelled out and met, no camping will be will be allowed on the property.
If the camp is successful, Edwards has plans to build a concrete pad for the common area with a fire pit, and he has already discussed how to get water and electricity to the camp with the owner.
“He told us we could tie into his well line,” said Edwards. ” This camp wouldn’t have been possible without Barry Wilkinson’s recognition of the need and his wonderful generosity.”
A lot is riding on the success of the trial encampment, but the two biggest needs of the moment are volunteers to help build the camp and money to keep it going.
“We have enough for our 90-day trial period, but if the camp continues we’ll have ongoing costs in the lease, electricity, sanitation and insurance, so we’ll need a continual flow of money,” said Edwards. “We have a positive attitude that this will work and that this camp will be a nice enough place that people will clear out of the parks and illegal camps to be here. The lack of money stopped us for years, but now we are going ahead and trusting the money and the volunteers will be there.”
Donations of almost $12,000 have been received to fund the improvements for the camp. An account has been set up for Hangtown Haven Inc. at U.S. Bank and donations can also be sent to Hangtown Haven Inc. at 2829 Miller Way, Placerville, CA, 95667. People wishing to volunteer or get more information about Hangtown Haven, may contact Art Edwards at email@example.com.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530-344-5069 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @WSchultzMtDemo.