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The Placer County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to allow a temporary change of use for county-owned property in North Auburn that could allow the facility to be used as an emergency homeless shelter.

A nonprofit group known as Right Hand Auburn Inc. has proposed opening a temporary shelter at the Placer County Government Center, a county complex commonly known as the DeWitt Center.

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At Tuesday’s meeting, board members voted unanimously to approve a temporary conditional use permit that is needed because the proposed site’s zoning currently does not permit a homeless shelter there. The temporary permit would remain in effect up to a year, but would allow Right Hand Auburn to operate a shelter on a three-month trial basis.

Board members emphasized that the permit will be held by the county Facility Services Department, rather than the nonprofit so the county has more flexibility to pull the permit if the shelter opens and has negative impacts that cannot be resolved.

Board members also agreed to establish a community oversight committee if the shelter is allowed to open on a trial basis. The committee would monitor operations and community impacts and would be given authority to bring concerns to the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery stated, “I think this is a solution that all board members felt they could support and the addition of a community oversight board gives added security to the neighbors and Placer County employees.”
In a second unanimous vote, the board decided to review at a future meeting a proposed site-access agreement that would allow Right Hand Auburn to temporarily use the proposed shelter site. Board members want to take a close look at a final draft site-access agreement because it will lay out operating requirements and other conditions the shelter will need to meet.

County staff and Right Hand Auburn continue to work on a final list of conditions. At Tuesday’s meeting, board members were presented with the option of delegating to Facility Services authority to exercise the site-access agreement. Instead, the board decided it wants to review and make the final decision on whether to approve the agreement.

Board members emphasized their goal is to have an agreement that balances the needs of the homeless with the concerns of community members and employees at the DeWitt Center who are worried about potential impacts.   

In addition to considering this temporary shelter, the county has an ongoing homeless needs assessment study currently in development by Marbut Consulting to offer suggestions on a long-term, county-wide solution to the homeless issue. The needs assessment and an action plan are scheduled to be ready for board review in March.ย 

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