Continuing to address homelessness in Placer County and improve the quality of life for residents, the board of supervisors voted unanimously this week to pursue a regional approach to addressing homelessness – and approved a ban on open alcohol containers in the county’s unincorporated areas.
The county will solicit proposals from contractors to run the temporary emergency homeless shelter in North Auburn until March 2017, potentially allowing services to continue while a regional plan for longer-term solutions can be developed. Board members applauded the service currently provided by Right Hand Auburn and Volunteers of America, but wanted to have an open competition to ensure the best operation and best use of taxpayer dollars should the board elect to continue shelter operations beyond March 31, 2016.
A presentation by Volunteers of America showed that a significant portion of those using the shelter suffer from either mental health issues, substance abuse issues or both.
“We need to get to the root causes of homelessness,” said District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery. “Homelessness is caused by a lack of affordable housing, mental illness, substance abuse and domestic violence, largely. We can take on so much more of this societal problem if we address the causes of homelessness and not just the symptoms.”
Community groups working with the Homeless Resource Council of the Sierras have identified a need for more low-income and workforce housing, and county staff are expected to make recommendations to the board in the coming weeks on ways to address the need.
This winter, the county solicited a list of suitably-sized properties for a possible permanent shelter in the greater Auburn area to replace the temporary shelter on the Placer County Government Center campus in North Auburn. The board directed staff today to engage in a broader site procurement process, looking at properties in the Auburn area, as well as the southern and eastern Placer County areas.
Placer County’s homeless populations cluster into three general areas: greater Roseville, greater Auburn and eastern Placer County in the Lake Tahoe region. The board directed staff to develop a plan that would provide consistent services in each of the areas before taking steps in any of them individually.
The board further directed county staff to develop a list of resources needed for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office to step up community policing in areas of North Auburn where community members have expressed concern about crime.
“We need more of a show of force in the area,” said Kirk Uhler, supervisor for district 4.
Last month, the board passed new quality of life ordinances addressing graffiti and public urination and defecation. The open container ban is intended to complement those ordinances.
If formally approved by the Board at its next meeting, the open container ban would go into effect in March.