Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Haven closure not a solution

From page A1 | October 14, 2013 | 17 Comments

Three of the four resident Community Council members for Hangtown Haven, Ken Green, James Adkins and Frank M., talked to the Mountain Democrat on Thursday, two days after they received word that the legal encampment will close on Nov. 15. The county did not approve the camp’s relocation to Perk’s Court, off of Missouri Flat Road, and the city of Placerville’s Temporary Use Permit allowing the camp to exist legally expires on Nov. 15. Hangtown Haven’s 30 residents, some of whom have the first stability they have known in years, will be back on the streets, looking for some place to live.

Some will go to the Nomadic Shelters that open Nov. 1, rotating among Green Valley Community Church, Cold Springs Church, United Methodist and Solid Rock Faith Church. While the council members worked at the shelters as volunteers last year and are grateful for the community response that keeps them running, there are concerns.

“We’re a little concerned about putting 30 people into the shelters all at once,” said Green, site coordinator for Hangtown Haven. “Last year, the shelters had about 48 people staying there at first and then about 60 toward the end of the winter — with the camp closed we’ll have more than that number right from the beginning and the shelters are small. They ‘ll be overrun.”

The shelters are open only at night and the people who stay there are not allowed to bring their possessions with them. Currently, there is nowhere for the homeless to go during the day.

Camp residents are leaving with sadness at the loss of the family unit and support structure they’ve created in the year since the camp’s opening, but without anger at the city’s enforcement of the expiration of the Temporary Use Permit.

“We understand the city’s decision and we have received tremendous support from them,” said Adkins. “Their hands are tied and they’ve got to keep their word. We’re not lashing out at them and we don’t want to disrespect the city in any way. They’ve been great.”

There’s concern that some of the residents will fall back into patterns of addiction without the support of the camp structure. “For some of the people here, this was like a rehab place,” said Frank M. “Now, outside, they are going to be surrounded by people who are using. Around sober people it’s easier to stay sober.”

Another concern is the fragility of some of the elderly and medically challenged people from the camp. “Some of them would have a hard time in the shelters,” said Green.

Adkins related several cases of people in the camp who were referred to Hangtown Haven from Marshall Hospital. “We watch over them, make sure they take their medication,” said Adkins. “One guy came here a wreck, couldn’t remember when to take his medication. He was a diabetic. In four months here, he was making dinner for 20 people, going to doctor’s appointments, taking care of himself. A total 360. He just recently moved out to his own place.”

“At the camp, we  help each other get to doctor’s appointments and get to jobs. The probation and parole departments can find us easily, those that are on probation, and it’s been an ideal situation for assisting people who have medical problems,” said Frank M. He mourns the Haven’s used van, recently donated by Wells Auto Sales. “We just got this and it was going to make it easy to get to jobs.”

Green, Adkins and Frank M. point out that the complaints about the homeless causing problems refer to those camping illegally — ones that aren’t allowed in to live in the camp because of not meeting the camp criterion or who have been kicked out of it.

“We have rules for being here; we do background checks and we don’t allow alcohol or drugs,” said Green. “I’ve been here since before the camp opened and we’ve grown and learned how to be together and help each other. People need a place they can take a breath and be dry and safe before they can start to set goals and think about getting out of being homeless.”

“People from our camp are not the ones that the businesses and people have complaints about,” said Adkins. “Only about 6 of us use the Upper Room — we pool our food stamps and cook for each other, taking turns and cleaning up. We didn’t like the way some of the people there disrespected the servers at Upper Room, so we stopped going.”

The scatter of camp residents in November will eliminate the emotional support and structure the camp has provided. “There is nowhere to continue that support and some of the people here who have made a lot of progress, are only about three months away from being able to leave and get their own place,” said Adkins. “That will fall apart when they are back to trying to survive in a different place every night.”

The jealousy and resentment that some illegal campers feel toward the camp residents is also causing concern about what will happen when they are all mixed together in the shelters.

“The camp leaving Broadway doesn’t make homelessness go away,” said Green. “The people who are causing trouble will still be here and now we’ll have a lot of other people who will be out here too.”

“When we move out of this property, the illegal campers will probably move in,” said Frank M. “We are like the front line security for the people who live on this property and we protect it from people who would trash it.”

Still, the three council members are buoyed by the success of the camp and optimistic about one day having a new location for it. “This is not the end,” said Green. “It’s a pause. This camp is all about helping people.”

For more information about Hangtown Haven, visit the Website at

Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.


Discussion | 17 comments

  • MorrisOctober 13, 2013 - 2:40 pm

    Happy Thanksgiving from the good and compassionate Christian folk of El Dorado County. Two thousand years ago we would have volunteered use of our four-wheeler to help drag the cross into place. Just be sure to collect a blank receipt for the gas so we can deduct it from our taxes that we don't cheat on..... "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members."

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  • kggOctober 13, 2013 - 7:06 pm

    the closure of hangtown haven is a real disappointment. it is certainly worthy of the full support of council members and supervisors.

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  • MorrisOctober 13, 2013 - 7:27 pm

    Do you have family that will assist you in the event of a catastrophic loss? Then consider yourself lucky. Many do not. Are you secure in your job and the prospects available should the job end? Then consider yourself lucky; many folks are without this enviable security. Do you have sufficient liquid savings to meet your living expenses for at least one year? Then consider yourself lucky; the majority of Americans do not. Are you free from the chains of drug and/or alcohol addiction? Then count your blessings; roughly 10% of your friends, family and neighbors are not. Are you on antidepressants? Then consider yourself lucky; Then count your blessings; roughly 15% of your friends, family and neighbors are. Are you without a criminal record and can easily pass the spotless background check required by most employers? Then consider yourself as not being in a position to be denied redemption; roughly 30% of Americans are not. Do you have sufficient savings to meet at least 75% of your living expenses in the roughly 20 years of your old age retirement? Then consider yourself lucky. Most Americans do not. Do you own your home and vehicle outright? Then consider yourself lucky. Most Americans do not. Are you free from any long-term need for prescription medications? Consider yourself blessed with good health; roughly 70% of Americans are not. If you 50 years old or less, do you have at least 1 million dollars in term life insurance to help your spouse and children pay the mortgage and school expenses without benefit of your income? Most Americans do not. Is your credit score 650 or above? Roughly 50% of Americans have less than to bad credit. Do you currently have an open, approved and available home equity line of credit? Many Americans do not. Nor would they qualify for one even if they had at least 20% equity on their home. Do you have disability insurance that will replace at least 75% of your income for at least 5 years of disability? If you were to experience an immediate 30% decrease in income, could you continue to meet your fixed expenses without drawing down from savings? The vast majority of your friends, family and neighbors cannot. If 90% of these questions cannot be HONESTLY answered in the affirmative, then you - yes you - are at risk of homelessness. To think it could not happen is the height of arrogant self-deception. And the fact it hasn't happened (yet) in no way represents it will not. It simply means - in part -that you have done some things right; but mostly means you have simply lucked out in being on the right side of percentages chance. It is a fool who does not understand that harder working and better prepared folks than yourself have known the defeat of homelessness.

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  • EvelynOctober 13, 2013 - 7:43 pm

    Morris: Well put. Beyond a shadow of a doubt I say: There but for the grace of God go I.

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  • Phil VeerkampOctober 13, 2013 - 7:37 pm

    Do you currently believe that you have the grit, determination, intelligence and drive to get up after a catastrophe and persevere and succeed? If you do not then you have a permanent disability. Believe.

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  • Fran DuchampOctober 13, 2013 - 7:40 pm

    I still think giving the homeless and the animal shelter enough land to have a small working farm would be a great enterprise.. the residents could be taught to care for animals--build their own mini homes...grow and sell would work. Sometimes when people have a rough time--animals can heal their souls. Teaching the residents skills--shows them they are worthy..which is a gift that only humans can give to one another.

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  • MorrisOctober 13, 2013 - 8:48 pm

    Thank you Evelyn. And succinctly well put is your quote. Fran: Always the bright light of ideas positive. Phil: I have experienced and survived a series of experiences that would horrify any person of decency. So yes, having the determination to bounce back from those events was a blessing. However, I personally know someone from that time who was involved and was far far more intelligent and of stronger character than myself. One might notice my use of the word 'was' in that statement; sadly I cannot use 'is' in reference to someone I adored. But was unable to bounce back and move beyond or forward. So you'll pardon me Phil for not spelling out exactly what I think of your logic other than to say it is selfishly ignorant and wholly arrogant for someone who once could not control himself. That fact - the like a gentleman inability - in and of itself demonstrates a lack grit and intelligence.

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  • Phil VeerkampOctober 13, 2013 - 8:58 pm

    Nicely put, Morris. Let me restate. If you do not believe in yourself you are disabled. (disadvantaged) I made no statement in favor of or against assistance. My statement went to the disability of lack if faith in ones self.

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  • MorrisOctober 13, 2013 - 9:22 pm

    Thank you for clarifying Phil. Certainly no one can ever agree 100% of the time with 100% of folks; a beautiful thing actually. But on that one seemed surprising. Thanks for expanding upon the original statement.

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  • Valerie MischOctober 14, 2013 - 10:57 pm

    Was nothing worked on while the Haven was up and running as to what the next step would be? I really can't imagine the Haven just closing down with no plan in place for it' s residents. There are empty buildings and closed businesses all over the County... can the powers that be not work out a way to utilize one of those available spaces, with a roof, windows, bathrooms, doors that lock, for the Haven residents t be warm, safe and secure??

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  • cookie65October 14, 2013 - 6:52 am

    Morris, is your anguish misplaced? From your 2:40 pm comment, "Happy Thanksgiving from the good and compassionate Christian folk of El Dorado County. Two thousand years ago we would have volunteered use of our four-wheeler to help drag the cross into place." It seems to me the local churches are a mainstay in providing much needed items for the people of Hangtown Haven. There is a lot of Truth is what Phil said, If you believe you CAN'T, you're right. Like most people, I have both immediate and extended family who are homeless. In their cases, it isn't due to any outside factors. They have taken every step along the way of their own volition.

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  • HedgehogOctober 14, 2013 - 9:13 am

    Difficult to understand the logic that says that putting a large number of homeless people out of the camp and onto the street will solve the problem of having homeless people on the street. As Wendy says, the homeless in the Haven are not the problem. These people are working on getting their lives straightened out. Putting them back on the street is not the solution.

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  • Melody LaneOctober 14, 2013 - 11:24 am

    During the 9/10/13 BOS I spoke spontaneously during the Haven issue (Item #29): **I was pleasantly surprised as I left when 2 ladies thanked me and invited me for a tour of the Haven facilities. Last week I had the privilege of a tour to see first hand how well run their current location actually is. Frankly, I was impressed to see it is cleaner and much better operated than the Coloma Resort which is constantly in violation of SUPs, law enforcement and CEQA violations. Unfortunately code & law enforcement turns a blind eye & deaf ear to community concerns about traffic, trash, noise, disturbances of the peace, etc. at the Coloma Resort. Hangtown Haven is MUCH more professionally run, is a blessing to the homeless community and is deserving of total BOS support. It's time to hold some feet to the fire and get rid of the GOB double standard.

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  • PatriceOctober 15, 2013 - 8:22 am

    IF true, nothing like strong family values, huh? If the county's political force really wanted to help by finding a replacement location it would happen.

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  • RobinOctober 15, 2013 - 12:17 pm

    Perhaps ifwe were told what has caused the Haven to be closed we could help/assist in finding a new or existing place by November 1st. Any suggestions or information?

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  • EvelynOctober 15, 2013 - 1:45 pm

    Robin: To the best of my knowledge, nothing actually "caused" the Haven's closure. Meaning, there have been no charges against the Haven's operation or residents. But homeowners across the County strongly resist having a homeless shelter anywhere near where they are domiciled. Fears include crime and loss of property value. And some homeowners on upper Broadway report serious trashing of their own properties, though never claimed to have been by Haven residents. I have no idea how the growing problem of homelessness will be dealt with. Several years ago the State awarded a $1.2M grant (I think that figure is correct) for a permanent year-round full service residential facility to accommodate 64(?) homeless people here in EDC. The BOS, probably responding to NIMBY pressures, diverted the grant into a black bureaucratic hole, from which it never again was was to be seen. ********** Homeless people (meaning, people who cannot on THEIR OWN, afford rent) are greatly prejudiced. Several years ago I lived adjacent to a house which was rented by 7 or 8 such people who TOGETHER were paying the rent. They were perfect neighbors who conducted themselves no differently from anyone else in the area. In fact, I would not have known that they were "homeless". But a few people in the neighborhood got wind of who they were and managed to get them evicted, using some local ordinance or regulation prohibiting more than X number of people from separate families living together.

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  • EvelynOctober 15, 2013 - 1:50 pm

    I've just now found my notes. That State grant mentioned above was for $1.4 million.

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