The Placer County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to allow a temporary emergency homeless shelter to open in North Auburn while the county and community partners continue working on long-term solutions to homelessness.
All five board members expressed a commitment to maintaining the county’s efforts to find long-term solutions, pointing to the county’s decision to hire Dr. Robert Marbut to conduct a comprehensive homeless needs assessment and develop an action plan.
Dr. Marbut, a national known expert on homelessness, presented his assessment during a community forum held in North Auburn last Thursday. During Tuesday’s meeting, each board member noted that Dr. Marbut’s assessment points to a need for a homeless center that is open 24 hours per days, seven days a week and provides the social services the homeless need. The assessment also emphasizes the need for county and city governments, businesses, and faith-based groups to work together on long-term solutions to homelessness.
Board members voted 3-2 to approve a site-access agreement that will allow a local nonprofit group known as Right Hand Auburn Inc. to open a temporary emergency homeless shelter as a three-month pilot project in a county-owned building in North Auburn. The project will provide overnight shelter to adult men and women.
The site is located at the Placer County Government Center, a county complex commonly known as the DeWitt Center.
“For me, this is a start,” said Supervisor Robert M. Weygandt, one of the board members who voted for the site-access agreement.
Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery agreed, saying the three-month pilot project is the start of a process that will lead to larger, more comprehensive solutions. She emphasized the board is willing to consider keeping the shelter open after the 90-day trial period.
“Something needs to be done,” said Supervisor Jack Duran, the third member who voted for the agreement with Right Hand Auburn.
The board majority agreed to a reimbursement plan with Right Hand Auburn for some of the expenses it will incur by improving the building and its site for use as a shelter. The improvements include accessibility upgrades, improvements to the fire alarm and suppression system, and installation of interior emergency lighting and exit signs.
County staff said Tuesday the total cost of building and site improvements likely will be about $75,000. Initially, Right Hand Auburn said it would be responsible for those costs, but it expected them to be relatively minor.
Board Chairman Kirk Uhler and Supervisor Jim Holmes voted against the agreement with Right Hand Auburn while reaffirming their commitments to finding long-term solutions for homelessness.
“This is not a solution,” Supervisor Holmes said of the temporary shelter. “We need to have a long-term solution.”
Chairman Uhler said he is concerned a temporary shelter at the proposed site will eventually become a permanent facility even though it may not be the best location for a permanent shelter.
The site-access agreement spells out the rights and responsibilities of Right Hand Auburn Inc. and Volunteers of America, the organization that will operate the shelter under contract with Right Hand Auburn.
The agreement contains a series of conditions that seek to balance the needs of the homeless with concerns about potential impacts expressed by community members and employees at the Government Center.
The conditions include:
* The shelter will be open to the homeless from 5 p.m. until 7 a.m. the following morning seven days per week;
* Staff will be present at all times the shelter is open;
* A maximum of 49 homeless individuals and staff will be allowed in the shelter at a time in keeping with Building Code requirements;
* Right Hand Auburn, Volunteers of America and the county will participate in twice-monthly community meetings scheduled by the county to review operations and receive community feedback; and
* The shelter must comply with State Penal Code regulations regarding sex offenders.
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