Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hangtown Haven eyes move west


ART EDWARDS stands in an 8-by-12-foot cottage that can house two homeless persons at a cost of $2,500 in materials. Designed by Mark Murphy of Murphy's Sheds, the cottages will be built by the homeless and then rented out to employed homeless persons. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

From page A1 | June 19, 2013 | 21 Comments

It’s been a long road and there are plenty of twists and turns left, but Hangtown Haven, Placerville’s only legal camp for the homeless will soon be relocating. Since last August, the camp has been located on Broadway in Placerville, down the street from the Upper Room Dining Hall and the Community Resource Center, both of which serve the needy and the homeless in the community.

The camp functions successfully on 1 acre owned by the Wilkinson family, with a temporary use permit that is good until November. But, by November, the camp needs to find a new location and according to Hangtown Haven Inc. founder Art Edwards, they might have done so. Even better, they have a plan to make the camp financially self-sustaining.

The new location, Hangtown Haven West, is on Perk’s Court on property owned by El Dorado County just off Missouri Flat Road. The 1 acre parcel fronts Highway 50 and is covered with oak trees and foliage. It has access to water and power and there is a large concrete slab from a home that no longer exists.

Barbed wire fencing surrounds three sides of the property, but Edwards plans to build a 6-foot wooden “good neighbor” fence along the frontage to screen the camp from Highway 50 and a section of the El Dorado Trail that parallels it. After the site is cleared of brush and graded, a steel fence will be added between the camp and the United Outreach house for homeless women and children, the nearest neighbors.

Two steel temporary buildings are planned for the site — one an enclosed steel shed that will house a gathering area with a woodstove, computer access for job searching and the camp’s library. An open-air roofed shed will provide additional shelter and common area. A shed structure will be positioned at the entrance to the site for volunteers to do visitor check-in and monitor those entering or leaving the camp.

Four living areas will provide space for about 40 tents or temporary cottages. “We’re working with architect Peter Wolfe to design as much usable space as we can,” said Edwards. “We’ll keep the trees and get rid of the brush and this will really be a beautiful place to live.”

Tents, like the ones currently used at Hangtown Haven, will be the first homes on the property, but Edwards is planning to gradually replace many of them with 8 by 12 micro shelters suitable for one or two people. A model, made by Mark Murphy of Murphy’s Sheds, and assembled by the homeless, is currently on display at Hangtown Haven.

“Mark just walked into the camp one day and asked what he could do to help,” said Edwards. “We just happened to have an idea.”

The cottage is wooden, rests on concrete blocks, and has two windows and a hardwood floor. Two bunkbeds, a desk, a dresser and a small closet with no door are built in. There is a locking front door to provide a sense of security, especially for women residents. It does not have water or electricity, and at less than 120 square feet, does not require a building permit.

“The materials to build this cost about $2,500,” said Edwards.” Mark designed it and built the walls and frame  and taught the  people at the camp here how to put it together.”

“In Sacramento, one of their microshelters runs about $5,600 and it doesn’t have anything built into it,” said Rebecca Nylander, a Hangtown Haven resident. “Mark Murphy did a great job of teaching us how to build. We learned so much — it was really exciting.”

The microshelters are more than just a temporary home; they are part of a plan to make the camp financially self-sufficient. “In order to qualify for one of the cottages,” said Edwards, “you have to have a part-time or full-time job or be a full-time college student, you have to agree to keep it clean and orderly, and you have to pay rent.”

A dozen cottages at a low rent could pay the camp’s bills, said Edwards. Keeping the woodland environment in mind, they will be painted in complementary shades of brown and green, different for each cottage. A six-foot overhang supported by pillars can be added as an outdoor sitting area.

“We’re hoping we can get churches and non-profit organizations or businesses to sponsor the money for materials for a cottage and the homeless will build it,” said Edwards. “These cottages, built by the homeless, will be a way of supporting themselves and I don’t think that has been done in the county before.”

The proposed new site is far from the Upper Room Dining Hall and the Community Resource Center, but it  is close to community medical services. Large retail businesses that could be sources for employment are within walking distance.

“We have a bus that we use now, when the nomadic shelters are open,” said Edwards. “We’ll use it to do a run from Hangtown Haven West about 3 p.m. each day, to the Upper Room and then bring residents back to camp at 6 p.m.”

Hangtown Haven Inc. is in the process of meeting with Perk’s Court residents, the fire department, Sheriff’s Office, El Dorado County Board of Supervisors and others to move through the necessary steps to make the new camp a reality.

“The two-by-two meetings with City Council members and the Board of Supervisors have really helped move this along and Mayor Wendy Mattson has been a huge support,” said Edwards. “We’ve talked with some of the supervisors and they sounded very positive. Supervisor Veerkamp asked for his constituents to contact him and let him know their support of the camp.”

Edwards is hoping Hangtown Haven Inc. can lease the property from the county for about $5 a year. “We’re doing everything according to the law and the building codes. It’s not going to be easy to get everything done by November,” said Edwards, “so we’re hoping we’ll have permission to start by Aug.1. The homeless are anxious to get to work on the property.

“We have a proven track record of  doing this right at Hangtown Haven and being able to raise the money we need,” said Edwards.”We aren’t asking for any money from the county. All we need is the property.” Hangtown Haven’s proposal is on the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors agenda for July 23.

For more information about the camp or the cottages, visit the Website at


Discussion | 21 comments

  • Phil VeerkampJune 18, 2013 - 1:02 pm

    . . . and within easy walking distance from Herbert Green Middle School (.6 mile) which may vision "student outreach" community service projects for students on behalf of the homeless . . . perhaps motivating students to work hard and excel . . .

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  • Justice InsiderJune 18, 2013 - 8:36 pm

    What a great idea to move the homeless camp to one of our counties newly blooming commercial area's for all the good folks, shoppers and tourist to see. Why not turn Missouri Flat corridor into the blight upper Broadway has become. Think of all the positives for the homeless residents. Our area's nicest hotel right across the street with nice cars to break into at night, easy access too. Lots of nice big retail stores to shop lift, and dig through trash cans, an elementary school within walking distance to keep the pedophiles entertained. Plenty of houses nearby to ruin their values, putting a homeless camp in that area is an excellent way to deter business's from relocating there, scaring off future sales tax revenues. Why not close the Haven as planned in November and return to not being a safe haven city for the homeless? Why should the residents, business's,and tourism have to suffer to make a few activist's feel warm and fuzzy inside?

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  • Foaming at the MouthJune 18, 2013 - 9:43 pm

    Wow, Justice. I didn't think anyone could possibly be meaner than Cookie 69. Until now.

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  • MIAJune 18, 2013 - 9:47 pm

    This is a horrible location and what a lousy entrance monument to the City of Placerville. Homeless will be stranded there like on a deserted island, close enough to see the conveniences of the City of Placerville in the distance and too remote, distant and inconventient to get there. What are they going to do, hoof it down Highway 50 to P'ville?? Missouri Flat is now a high-speed freeway now and very pedestrian unfriendly. Someone needs to have their head examined on this decision. It seems this is a deliberate attempt to isolate the homeless from the City of Placerville and keep them stranded on their own little Missouri Flat island.

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  • Mia ChiapetJune 18, 2013 - 9:56 pm

    Are you kidding me? What a horrible location and a lousy entrance monument to the City of Placerville. Homeless will be stranded there like on a deserted island, close enough to see the conveniences of the City of Placerville in the distance and too remote, distant and inconventient to get there. What are they going to do, hoof it down Highway 50 to P'ville?? Missouri Flat is now a high-speed freeway now and very pedestrian unfriendly. Someone needs to have their head examined on this decision. It seems this is a deliberate attempt to isolate the homeless from the City of Placerville and keep them stranded on their own little Missouri Flat island.

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  • MartinJune 19, 2013 - 5:36 am

    ;Mr/Mrs Insider Why don’t you cry on someone’s shoulder that really gives a s---t about what you think, you’re a self made left wing idiot. What makes you think that all homeless are pedophiles and shop lifters? Some people get down on their luck once in a while and I feel what the community is doing for them is wonderful. When you pound someone into the ground it is hard for them to recover, when you help someone they are much more likely to become self sufficient and can add much to the community. My biggest b====ch is they should of used the money for the game tunnel going under US 50 to assist humans instead of deer and other creatures that have no idea that the tunnel is even there.

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  • This is nuts...June 19, 2013 - 7:24 am

    Add to that above list, convenient access to the future El Dorado Trail and the bus stop. On the other hand, the bridges are right there in case anyone gets kicked out of the camp. There is no good place for this thing unless it is right next door to the CHP office.

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  • On the other handJune 19, 2013 - 7:42 am

    Hmmm... Simple, un-insulated cabins with no electricity, no plumbing on county land for the homeless for a small fee. If an individual created the same thing on private land as a rental unit, then they would be subject to $50K in fees and permits besides being required to provide indoor plumbing and power. Campgrounds are regulated by the state so I presume that this is approved by the state, as well.

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  • Irritated Business OwnerJune 19, 2013 - 8:35 am

    I own a business near the Safeway shopping center and there is already a HUGE homeless problem. These people already dig through dumpsters, dig through our garbage can and attempt to give themselves a bath using our hose and in front of our clients during working hours. These people do not want to live in such a confined, socialized area. This really is going to turn this area into an area like Broadway.

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  • Bob AltmeyerJune 19, 2013 - 9:49 am

    GREAT IDEA! Dump the city's problems in the county. I'm sure the Sheriff and the surrounding neighbors are thrilled with this idea. The deputies can keep busy writing burglary reports, since they have nothing better to do. The Board of Supes should recall the skate park in the fairgounds they approved. Assaults went through the roof when it opened. This idea needs to shut down along with the homeless camp.

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  • Ken SteersJune 19, 2013 - 9:56 am

    To build a shed, charge $2500.00 and then rent out to "homeless people"? BRILLIANT! I didn't know you could charge rent for something with out power water or toilets. Green VS Superior Court rule on habitability standards. Are we now going to ignore the law because it makes someone feel good? No Hangtown Haven is trying to userp the law to benefit Hangtown Haven. This is what happens when people think they are above the rule of law

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  • W. KincaidJune 19, 2013 - 10:37 am

    What a great idea, let's make Placerville a shanty town! Homeless grifters who don't want to fit into societal norms ought to be pushed into the outskirts of town, so that decent, hardworking people don't have to look at them, or the squalor they choose to live in. This is a lame-brain idea, moving them right into a commercial area. "Justice Insider" points this out the fallacy of this fairly clearly above. Before anybody gets their panties into a knot, of course I'm not talking about the disabled or mentally ill. It's a GOOD THING when society shuns behavior that is bad for it. It's a GOOD THING that street urchins are made to feel unwelcome. Maybe that will serve as an impetus for them to clean up their lives and get with the program.

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  • Rather not.June 19, 2013 - 1:00 pm

    Great more beggars at Safeway and Kmart complex. NO THANKS!

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  • Ken SteersJune 19, 2013 - 1:48 pm

    I don't think that they can rent those out legally. They do not conform to State Laws

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  • ChelseaJune 19, 2013 - 11:53 pm

    Not all homeless people are criminals. Where is your compassion? Sometimes people fall on hard times. I think this project is fantastic!

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  • TimJune 20, 2013 - 1:15 am

    Wow. What a terrible idea. Lets just fund the people who contribute nothing to society and help them continue to do nothing for the greater good. Maybe if each tax payer in the county could just shell out $20 a month we could give each homeless in the county a $50,000 a year job and make them like everyone else. El Dorado County is just supporting and helping this trash continue doing what they are doing; nothing. Hopefully theres a fire.

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  • Laurie MarchantJune 21, 2013 - 9:30 pm

    One of the greatest challenges facing Hangtown Haven is the stigma of homeless folks. Please visit the website at: to learn more about this exemplary community.

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  • Paula BarberJune 23, 2013 - 11:57 am

    In response to the last article written on 6/18/13, I guess you don't know the Golden Rule - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Where is the love for our fellow human beings hiding or do you even care for anyone but yourself? Not everyone in this world is bad, out to get you or your stuff. It's not the activists that will be warm by this but the people that are house there. What if you become homeless, what or where will you go or do?

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  • EvelynJune 28, 2013 - 7:08 am

    "IKEA develops flat pack REFUGEE CAMPS designed to replace tented cities in disaster zones" - HERE

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  • bob WiltonSeptember 24, 2013 - 5:24 am

    I live 1/8 of mile from proposed site on Perks Court. I recd no legal notice of proposed zone change, illegal. Converting public property to private use, illegal. Depression of my homes value is illegal confiscation of my private property (my equity) unconstitutional, 6 arrests for public intoxication on average per month at current location, yes I want my child kept up all night by the fights. Oh, not supposed to do drugs or alcohol in camp-they will go into the woods or along the creek, the kids using the bike path can dodge the needles. Structures =housing, public housing, that requires and Environmental Impact review and filing, not done. Convicted felons allowed, how nice for me.sound carries in the county, I can hear my neighbors children laughing at night, do I want to listen to a large group of people at night? I can see my house from the site, do I want them watching my children play? Now the kids can't walk to school. Already can't go to the McDonald's on Broadway because of the aggressive panhandling, here goes another one. Bank of America has to have a guard so people can use the atm with being harassed. How about the homes for sale in the area, should they lose their equity or rot on the market while the board of supervisors fiddles? do my out of town guests want ti stay at a hotel across from a homeless encampment. i betcha alot of folks will be showing up for the free breakfast that are not registered guests. A residential area is not appropriate to this purpose, and the method being used is illegal.

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  • RichSeptember 24, 2013 - 7:56 am

    Gads! To go to Walmart Dow you have to get past the 'unfortunates' and meth heads. I want my nice little town back. As the baseball movie says, if you build it, they will,come...from all over. Every adjacent county will be shipping them here. Can we think about this beforevtrashing another area of private homes.

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