Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The flip side of Hangtown Haven

Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

A CAMPSITE at Hangtown Haven in Placerville sits empty. Opponents of the homeless encampment warn of the negative effects it could bring to the city. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

From page A1 | October 12, 2012 |

Will the homeless encampment, Hangtown Haven, continue when its temporary use permit expires? Should it? One man with some personal experience with the issue, Mike Garduno, doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

Garduno, a 25 year resident of El Dorado County, raises sheep on Newtown Road and has commercial businesses in Sacramento, not far from Loaves & Fishes, a private charity that serves some 800 homeless people each day and provides day shelters and services for them.

“I want people to really think this through before they put a lot of time and resources together,” said Garduno. “On my ranch I’ve dealt with people camping on my property and leaving their trash, people dumping their cars and a fire that burned 53 acres. At my property in Sacramento, I deal every day with people who defecate on the sidewalks, graffitti the walls of my buildings, sleep in the doorway and don’t move when you ask them.”

Three times, Garduno, 61, said he has opened up his buildings in the morning to find homeless women who have been raped and robbed of their disability checks. “I’m concerned that by advocating more and more services all in one area, we are creating a homeless environment,” he said.

Garduno is also concerned about the camp’s proximity to the creek and problems for the creek from the grading, people tossing garbage and cigarette butts into the creek and leakage from the portable toliets. He deplores the trash along Broadway that extends from the Upper Room to the encampment. “They  walk in the roadways on the way to the Community Resource Center and the Upper Room because we don’t have any sidewalks — you have to be very careful when you drive past. What if someone gets hit?” he asked.

The grouping of services close to the encampment — Community Resource Center, the Upper Room Dining Hall, a ministry — is a mirror of what has happened in Sacramento, said Garduno. “The situation in Sacramento where people are beaten and robbed of their disability checks by gangs raiding the place, the trash and public safety hazards, are what happen when you put a large mass of people together who don’t adhere to the laws,” he said. “You create a problem that you can’t control.”

Something must be done

Garduno agrees that something must be done to help the homeless. “We need to do something, but do it the right way — not just designate a place for them and let them take over. We have to try to get them back into society and there has to be a better way. In my experience, many of the homeless don’t want to work even when minimum wage jobs are offered to them. We don’t need to have our city decay and deteriorate.”

Use of vacant homes to house the homeless is one alternative to the camp said Garduno.

“Somebody needs to make the hard decisions and that’s why we elected them to those positions,” said Garduno of the Placerville City Council. “People are trying to be politically correct, but we don’t know who these people (homeless) are. They are a public nuisance and a safety hazard. The camp and the tents are right in view of people who are exiting from Apple Hill at Point View.We’ve got a soup kitchen and a homeless camp — is that how we want people to see Placerville?”

Garduno said many business people in the community feel the way he does. “But they work 10 to 12 hours a day and have families to care for. They don’t have a lot of time to write letters or attend meetings about this.” Some, he admits, don’t want to publicly state what they privately feel about the issue. He plans to attend the Oct.15 Neighborhood Chat to share his concerns with City Council and the community.

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





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