Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Homeless camp’s success may spell its doom

From page A1 | November 11, 2013 | 45 Comments

By many accounts, including those who have had negative experiences with the homeless population in Placerville, Hangtown Haven, the legal encampment for the homeless, is working well. But, despite the success of the experiment, it is still scheduled for closure on Nov. 15 — perhaps because of its very success.

Detractors of the homeless camp see the camp as a magnet for homeless people from all over the state. The illegally camping population of homeless has burgeoned in the past year according to a report by Placerville Police Chief Scott Heller, which can be accessed on the city’s Facebook page.

The report states that Placerville Police Department began tracking contacts with Habitual Transient Offenders based on observed and reported criminal activity in July of 2012. The report defines Habitual Transient Offenders as individuals who habitually violate the law by aggressively panhandling, trespassing, illegally camping, urinating/defecating in public, engaging in arson, and using and abusing alcohol and narcotics in public.

A 92 percent increase from 2012 to 2013 in the number of Habitual Transient Offender contacts was noted in the report as well as a 25 percent increase in burglaries and a 62 percent increase in general thefts. The majority of the Habitual Transient Offender contacts, as well as the burglaries and thefts, are occurring along Broadway, according to the report.

The report further states an increase in Habitual Transient Offenders that are not from Placerville. “The police department has very few contacts with local Placerville homeless in crisis,” stated the report. “A review of contact data reveals a substantial number of individuals from outside our region and state migrating to our area as voluntary homeless.”

The report cautions business owners and citizens to report nuisance violations and to avoid giving cash or food to panhandlers and give instead to charitable organizations that assist those in need.

Concerned neighbors in the Smith Flat and Wiltse Road/Lumsden Park area contacted Placerville Police and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office reporting home break-ins and transients defecating on their property. On Nov. 3, a group of Smith Flat residents met with EDSO deputies to talk about what they can do in response to the homeless population that camps near their homes and the El Dorado Trail.

One resident of Wiltse Road said neighbors are selling their homes at a loss in order to move to safer locations and that some neighbors are afraid of speaking out at Placerville City Council meetings against the homeless because of possible retribution from the illegally camped homeless population.

Hangtown Haven, Inc. applied for a renewal of the Temporary Use Permit that allows the camp to exist legally, extending it through July 1, 2014. This application will come before the city council at the Nov. 12 meeting for its review and action. The city council meeting begins at 6 p.m. at Town Hall, 549 Main Street in Placerville.

In the city manager’s report for the Nov. 12 meeting, city staff recommends the denial of the extension of the TUP based on concerns about a lack of safe pedestrian access to and from the site; the inability of the site to be all-weather capable; concerns that the continued existence of the camp would be subject to an environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act; and the temporary nature of the facility which was not intended as a permanent solution, but as a “stop gap” measure to get some of the residents through last winter.

If the TUP for Hangtown Haven is not extended, the camp will close. Nomadic shelters offered by faith-based organizations opened Nov. 1 for the evenings and are the homeless’ only option to illegal camping.

“In anticipation of the end of the Temporary Use Permit for Hangtown Haven, the city’s legal encampment for the homeless, the city and county have been working in close collaboration to help transition the current residents to their next step,” said Placerville Mayor Wendy Thomas in an e-mail to the Mountain Democrat.”

As directed by the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors at the Sept. 10 BOS meeting, a team of county staff is evaluating potential shelter locations. At the Nov. 5 BOS meeting, a motion to continue to explore options for transitional housing sites and alternatives was approved. A report on the findings is scheduled to come back before the Board on Jan. 14.

Placerville City Manager Cleve Morris and Mike Applegarth from El Dorado County CAO’s office have been working together to look for potential day shelters and exploring the possible costs and funding options.

“Hearing from the Haven representative that transportation and storage are significant concerns, Mike Applegarth from the CAO’s office has met with transit officials for options in acquiring and distributing transportation assistance, and they are looking at locations near potential day shelter sites where we could place some type of storage unit,” said Thomas.

A team from EDC Health and Human Services was prepared to meet individually with residents of Hangtown Haven on Nov. 5 at Town Hall to ensure they were connected to all of the services for which they are eligible, but the meeting was canceled.

“Only three of the residents wanted to be part of the meeting and, since it was in the morning, the 15 residents who have jobs weren’t able to be there,” said Art Edwards, co-founder of Hangtown Haven.

“The offer is still out there, however,” said Morris.

Edwards said, “The city is doing their best, but I think everyone is assuming the nomadic shelters are going to be a solution. With the addition of the Hangtown Haven residents, that puts 50-60 people in the shelters at night and some of the churches that offer the shelters are just too small for that many people.

“Hangtown Haven is costing the city and county zero now,” said Edwards. “But they are willing to put up some money to move us around. It’s just simpler to leave us where we are. ”

“We are grateful to all the churches and non-profits for their efforts and we look forward to finding answers to this challenge that makes sense for our entire community,” said Thomas.

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


Discussion | 45 comments

  • Phil VeerkampNovember 10, 2013 - 12:43 pm

    Wendy, thank you. Your report seems to me as "right down the middle". I suspect that Perks Ct. would be no more than a "change of address".

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  • EvelynNovember 10, 2013 - 1:05 pm

    "The Unaffordable Golden State: Only 1/3 Californians can afford a home. How a minor jump in interest rates and a big rise in prices has thrown off affordability" - HERE

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  • EvelynNovember 11, 2013 - 5:46 am

    The U.S. economy lost 623,000 full-time jobs last month. - HERE

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  • Walking TallNovember 11, 2013 - 7:11 am

    Gee we offer a solution to the local homeless and more come from out of the area and force the home owners out because of the criminal element that is part of being homeless. Who saw this coming ??-- where we the people prey upon ourselves, oh and let's not forget the amount of impact on the businesses that are barely holding their head above water to keep their doors open. So let's invite more homeless to come into the City/County to steal, pan handle and haarass us so that they can have that free hand out..but it's ok because they're "Homeless" but heaven forbid that we require them to drug test and apply for a job or clean the streets/highway for this free place to stay and rip us off. The only sense this makes is nonsense, look at the age of the theves and you will see we have just allowed the career theves to have a place to meet and greet more of their kind and steal from us. Guess the 'Hangtown Haven" wasn't such a good idea was it.. the stats don't lie unlike the supporters of this "Training camp for Theves"

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  • Courtney StoddenNovember 11, 2013 - 8:48 am

    Gee, Mr. Walking Tall, u seem like my kind of hunky dude - not at all like my loser ex, cry-me-a-river-Morris-mush-heart. - call me Courtney

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  • Kudos!!November 11, 2013 - 9:52 am

    I would like to point out that some of these "facts" need some serious fact check! There is in fact no proof that crime is on the rise due to HTH. There is also no proof that the HTH has attracted homeless from neighboring areas. The fact of this matter is that you need to prove residence of Placerville to be a guest of the HTH program. There has been crime from homeless, homeless that live in the area illegal camps.Theses illegal camps do not follow rules, there is not guidelines, or relationship with police/probation/parole. The HTH program allows probation/ parole to keep in contact with these individuals. Police have used the camp to look for people reported missing, and the guest of HTH are trying. Trying to recover from loss, trying to get back on their feet, trying to fall in with the society norm. In return on their road to success they are being there as support for others who want to better their lives and giving back to our community. Who are we to judge at all, but truly who are we to judge without all the FACTS. HTH should be seen for what it is. HTH is a positive place for the homeless to gain a sense of community, to have access to help, a place to start, and others to understand their growth. Kudos too you all at HTH for your efforts!!

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  • freemasonNovember 11, 2013 - 12:56 pm

    Please explain your facts. What establishes residency? From previous profiles we heard that the young man is from washington and first came to cool, then lived across the street from HH "with the tweakers and drunks" does one need only to get a PObox and send themselves a letter? You may think i am being sarcastic but i would really like to know, and i think others would too. And may i ask you where you live? I am a Smith flat rd resident thankyou.

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  • freemasonNovember 11, 2013 - 1:04 pm

    My comment was directed at kudos. Thank you Walking Tall for speaking up and i hope to see you and others at the city counsel meeting tomorrow. BTW I just went by the HH and saw a satillite truck in the driveway. Count on the press being there.

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  • HTH GuestNovember 11, 2013 - 9:24 am

    This increased transient population is news to us at Hangtown Haven. If we are indeed attracting such a population it would make sense that these people would find their way to HTH to ask for admittance which they have not. I would be interested what definition is being used for out of the area. I would also like to point out the Lack of Police contact with the residence of Hangtown Haven. We are obeying the law, not breaking it. So why are we being punished? I just don't understand.

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  • Oh BrotherNovember 11, 2013 - 9:26 am

    I really do not believe that the people living at the Haven are the reason for crime or whatever. That area had the Upper Room there before the Haven (I think that is correct), so homeless folks have been walking around up there for years..when the homeless went to the church at night up here in Camino, they still returned down to Placervillle, When I go to Dollar Store or Grocery Outlet I can see a few homeless around, but I see more over at all the stores along Missouri point I guess is why close the haven to the people who are following the rules. Crime has picked up everywhere not just Broadway. And if it is so bad on Broadway, I am down there quite frequently and I don't see a police presence. Personally I am more worried about the drunks at the Sports Stadium. Or Red hawk where it seems to be a meth hangout. I read the police and sheriff reports daily and I have a scanner so Broadway isn't the main priority most days. And the most crimes taking our law enforcement's time is Walmart....every single day they respond on getting them closed down.

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  • freemasonNovember 11, 2013 - 2:10 pm

    Oh brother by your comment I see you live in camino and have probably not been awoke at 3 in the morning by someone rummaging in your recycle bin the night before pickup.(we no longer put it out until morning). I don"t think it"s HH residents either but as this article states and previous ones have it has become an attractive nuisance. Word travels fast on the street and even faster on the internet. One solution that makes sense to me is for you to open your home to one or two and if you ask your friends to as well the HH could have a real roof over their heads along with a sense of security and permanence. As for crime I know someone who has moved due to being unable to take it anymore. Where i live there are retired people, working people, and children who want a safe and secure neighborhood. Just because "homeless folks have been walking around UP there for years" doesn"t mean that it is acceptable or can"t be changed. The TUP is a Temporary Use Permit and was not meant for longterm housing we all knew the closing date and some made plans accordingly others did not.

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  • Oh BrotherNovember 11, 2013 - 9:31 am

    Well said HTH Guest!! My prayers are going out for success for you all and your futures.

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  • rodNovember 11, 2013 - 9:45 am

    Wendy, great letter, hearing facts via police reports gives us a better understanding of transient out-of-towners looking to cash in. Apparently the ‘Haven’ actually functions in helping a few of these transients to get back to being self-sufficient productive members of society, an unequivocal plus. However, the ELEPHANT in the room, THE causative factor in the growing incursion of homeless to east Placerville is the ‘upper room’ and the FREE FOOD. THIS is the underlying problem. “The road to perdition is paved with good intentions”, The Upper Room concept of free food for those in need is no doubt a benevolent and worthy undertaking, but it apparently never considered its neighbors. How did that happen??? Wendy, perhaps more discussion on relocating the source of the problem might improve this growing community problem?

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  • By the numbersNovember 11, 2013 - 10:02 am

    The funny thing about percentages and how deceptive they can be. If I have one apple and someone gives me three more apples, that's a seventy-five percent increase. The interesting thing is that I still wouldn't have enough apples to make a pie.

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  • DNovember 11, 2013 - 12:45 pm

    Let me give you some numbers. From July 2012 to June 2013 the Habitual Transient Offender contacts along Broadway was 584, Main St. 92 and Placerville Dr. 88. Hope that puts thing in perspective.

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  • Courtney StoddenNovember 11, 2013 - 10:07 am

    by-the-numbers, sugar pie - if u had one apple and somebody gave you three more and then you multiplied by 11 you would have your IQ

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  • observerNovember 11, 2013 - 3:37 pm

    courtney sounds just like cookie

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  • CautionNovember 11, 2013 - 10:20 am

    I caution you to be careful about blaming the Upper Room. The Upper Room has been in operation for many years. While it is true it does provide food to the transient population along Broadway it also provides meals to senior citizens who would otherwise go hungry. The meals on wheels program that used to be free now charges for its services. A cost most cannot afford. Before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, maybe we should be asking why some of our most needed services are being left up to the churches and other grassroots organizations. Very few of the guests at Hangtown Haven currently utilize the Upper Room however, we will be forced to with the closure of the camp. I am still unclear how that will help situation along Broadway by adding 30 more people trekking along without sidewalks.

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  • By the numbersNovember 11, 2013 - 10:21 am

    Courtney dear, I'll show my work, OK sweetie? Start with one apple. Add one more apple. That is a 100% increase. You have 2 apples. Now add one more apple. That is a 50% increase and you have a total of three apples. Now add one more apple for a total of four apples. . . . an increase of 25%. On average you have increased your apple count 58.33% (100%+50%+25%)/3 = 58.33% Sorry about that 75% thing, sugar pie.

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  • Phil VeerkampNovember 11, 2013 - 10:31 am

    IMHO if I had three apples and you gave me one more apple --------> 1 divided by 3 expressed in percentage format to two decimal places is 33.33% ---------> (100%+50%+33.33%)/3 = 61.11% which is closer to 75% but still no cigar. Call me Courtney.

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  • MorrisNovember 11, 2013 - 6:15 pm

    Surely you can't be serious. Courtney.

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  • By the numbersNovember 11, 2013 - 10:28 am

    Courtney if I offended you somehow, I am truly sorry for the affront. Let me communicate my thoughts more plainly. The way this data was presented is very deceptive as it was meant to be. It is a shame that the cities only recourse is to resort to misinformation. The only weapon that they have to misdirect thinking people from the good that is being done here by throwing out suspect statistics that meant to do nothing but incite fear.

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  • freemasonNovember 11, 2013 - 10:53 am

    Thank you Wendy however I must point out that I was at the Smithflat meeting and am a resident the officers were PPD and were very helpful In answering our questions and concerns for our property and safety both ours and the homeless. It is unfortunate that so few HH residents could find the time to attend a meeting that will direct them in their next phase of growth. I wish them all the best of luck they have done great job but it is time to move on

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  • Fran DuchampNovember 11, 2013 - 11:54 am

    Here's what you're going to need! Apples (I only used four apples for this pie) 1 teaspoon lemon juice 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup flour 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg to taste 2 Tablespoons cold butter, cut in small pieces You'll want a large mixing bowl, a pie tin, a peeler, a apple cutter or a knife, and a pizza cutter will be a great tool later... and you'll need a pie crust. You can make your own or buy a pre-made crust. I will provide more information on crust later! I believe I used Johnathan apples for this pie. Truth be told, I've used all kinds of apples for pies and never been unhappy with the results! Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees!!!! comes with pictures as well....

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  • DNovember 11, 2013 - 3:43 pm

    I don't know why you are talking about pie. I take this very seriously. It's a serious issue.

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  • Placerville residentNovember 11, 2013 - 5:17 pm

    So Art Edwards states that HH isn't costing the city or taxpayers a dime. How much is it costing the taxpayers each time the fire department has to come out because a homeless person got too drunk and fell? I see this occur on a regular basis in the upper Broadway area especially.

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  • MorrisNovember 11, 2013 - 6:02 pm

    Not as much as each time the FD has to come out when one of the city homeowners little darlings falls out after OD'ing one heroin. Or about as much as when one of the residents gets drunk at the bar and has his ass whopped and they have to help him pick up pieces of his face. But likely a less than the cost of some carnage caused by a Placerville commuter after s/he plows into another car because the one in front of him/her dared to leave 18 inches of free space between cars at 5:45 pm. So all and all, I'd say drunk homeless dude is the low-cost leader here.

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  • Fran DuchampNovember 11, 2013 - 5:41 pm is a serious topic...and people were right--sometimes people are lead by the nose by the manipulation of numbers. One comment said they could not make a pie with only four apples--not true. This place is not the cause of other homeless...economics is the cause. so if you are serious--this is what is true...some good people are down on their luck (as you can see in the articles) they have found a "place" of their own. the area was already in bad shape--years before the Haven. The council for the most part is a joke...this must not have been thought out to begin with. "Sustainability " means more than a few moments...and since government keeps throwing that word around--they should learn the definition. This county could provide land...put the animals with people in need--teach them to care for the animals--grow a business. that is why I started talking about pies--it is as silly as manipulating numbers to "fit" an argument. and "food" representing the numbers? Some of these people have been hungry--poor example in my opinion. So once again--very serious subject...hopefully someone will help them.

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  • Dee#1November 11, 2013 - 6:09 pm

    Please read Chief Heller's statement. How people think it is fine for their neighbors to have their safety and comfort comprised by constant, non-ending criminal behavior is beyond me........again read the report.........

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  • DNovember 11, 2013 - 6:32 pm

    Well those little darlings are children and they are Homeowners and Taxpayers.

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  • Walking TallNovember 11, 2013 - 6:51 pm

    Now I have heard it all, a homeless person must establish where they live to be the word homeless doesn't really apply and if you are from out of the area all you have to do is say "I live here". Make it a requirement to drug test and apply for work and work for the privledge of a place to stay and free food; then see how many homeless we have.Being Homeless does not equal a free ride nor does it allow for criminals to have free rein over tax paying citizens; tresspassers are just that and the criminal element must be arrested, not supported because they choose to be homeless

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  • TemplarNovember 11, 2013 - 7:01 pm

    Dear Mr Morris, I feel compelled to respond to your comments about the fire department and little darlings etc. it struck me as strange that you attempt to defend disorderly conduct involving alcohol on the part of the homeless by attacking tax paying, hard working individuals. The term tax paying being the operative message here. As a tax payer, I expect the fire department or police to respond if I am in distress. It is my hard earned tax dollars lumped in with other hard working tax payers' dollars that allow for police and fire service operation. Last time I checked, the homeless/transient population only paid taxes when purchasing the alcohol in question. It is not the hard working tax payer that should be of concern. We should focus on those who only wish to take and drain finances from an already distress tax base.

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  • Foaming at the MouthNovember 11, 2013 - 7:37 pm

    So the next-door neighbor who pays 1/10th the property taxes Foaming does should get 1/10th the police and fire service? Got it!

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  • TemplarNovember 11, 2013 - 7:55 pm

    Mr. Foaming Let's assume in a ten year period in which you dutifully pay your taxes but never need fire or police assistance should you be entitled to a refund? The issue at hand is whether or not you contribute consistently to the greater community good or if you are a drain with no intention of ever contributing. I have offered jobs to those homeless with signs claiming "will work for food" Never once had one showed up. I live on SmithFlat rdred and see daily the activities of the homeless. My patience is gone for the transient population. Go be a tax and resource burden elsewhere.

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  • SFRNovember 11, 2013 - 9:19 pm

    So the hotel owner next door decides to create the Homeless Hotel. Run by him and anyone he chooses. Hangtown Haven gets their extension. The hotel owner wants his own TUP and claims H Haven as a precedent. Would it be fair to deny him considering how well the haven homeless have done? At what point do we say no placerville should not be a destination for the nations homeless. You can check out any time you like but you will never leave!

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  • Foaming at the MouthNovember 11, 2013 - 9:57 pm

    What makes Templar so sure that Foaming is a Mister? And I still don't get it: if the homeless deserve no services because they pay no taxes, then why is Foaming's neighbor entitled to full services when his property tax is one-tenth Foaming's?

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  • Sly GirlNovember 11, 2013 - 11:31 pm

    Build it, and they will come. And they have. Why is anyone surprised? Placerville has created "a haven" for those of various criminal behaviors who desire to camp, walkabout, and receive services - all in a convenient, general location. The El Dorado Trail and its surrounding foliage provide excellent cover and a defined, transportation avenue for miscreants who foot their way from Missouri Flat Road to all of the freebies that await the at the end of upper Broadway. Kudos to the volunteers and therefore defenders of Hangtown Haven. Thank you for assisting the previously unfortunate who have committed to changing their lives. Yet, do you live in the same area? I do. I have been approached, unfavorably so, by transients on the El Dorado Trail. Do you shop in that area in an attempt to keep your dollars local so that our business owners will thrive and not shut their doors as so many have done over that last few years? I do. I have been aggressively approached by homeless panhandlers in evening hours in dark parking lots. The solution? Move the services - all of them - to a less residential and less forested area. Get the transients away from the the ED Trail and its inviting illegal camping areas and away from the narrow roads and congested residential areas of upper Broadway. How about creating a "haven" that works for more than just a few who are turning their lives around? Create a safe place for all - safe for the homeless, safe for the services that desire to support them, and safe for the families that already live responsibly here.

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  • DNovember 12, 2013 - 3:30 am

    Sly Girl....thank you. I completely agree.

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  • PatriceNovember 12, 2013 - 11:01 am

    Yes, Sly Girl, your comment rings true and with an abundance of compassion. If there is anyone with the property, the means and the heart, please step up.

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  • Placerville ResidentNovember 12, 2013 - 3:45 pm

    Thank you Sly Girl!!! Couldn't have said it better myself. My home is on upper Broadway. Hope to see all of us who are done with the HH at the City Council meeting tonight at 6pm!!!!

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  • cookie65November 12, 2013 - 11:42 am

    Fran, use cinnamon red hots in place of nutmeg or cinnamon. You will like the results.

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  • Fran DuchampNovember 12, 2013 - 11:57 am

    Cookie...actually I have--yep yummy stuff....lololol

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  • SFRNovember 12, 2013 - 12:05 pm

    New rules regarding alchohol and drugs at hangtown haven. fox40 news. 12 hours ago. Wait I thought they already had rules that were working. What happened? 15 residents are working. May I ask if these are volunteer positions at the haven or real jobs with salaries? What are the residency requirements at the haven? We have been hearing a lot of success stories from the supporters and many more about their hard times but where is the accountability and transparency? The problem I see is that the Haven had no intention of being temporary. "some just need six more months to get back on track" then the new arrivals will need six more months and so on. this was not supposed to be a private rehab center. The people running the haven should have stopped admitting six months ago knowing that they had a Temporary Use Permit that would run out Nov 15.

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  • TemplarNovember 12, 2013 - 12:17 pm

    The real issue here is not whether or not the Hangtown Haven is successful at placing those who need a helping hand back into society, the issue is crime. The report written by Scott Heller, Placerville Chief of Police shows a direct correlation between the establishment of the Haven and the substantial rise in crimes committed by transient offenders along Broadway and the surrounding community. Please take emotion out of the equation. The community and businesses along Broadway have shouldered the brunt of the 'criminal transient homeless' long enough. For future reference, you may want to put the next Haven away from a food bank and a liquor store. Those trying to get back on tract from a societal stand point may find the liquor store too much to handle.

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  • Fran DuchampNovember 12, 2013 - 3:03 pm

    "The report written by Scott Heller, Placerville Chief of Police shows a direct correlation between the establishment of the Haven and the substantial rise in crimes committed by transient offenders along Broadway and the surrounding community" Not seeing where he said...crime was up because of the Haven Habitual Transient Offender Contacts on the Rise

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