Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas
By Anna Marie Gott
As a result of the Loma Fire the City Council is having a Special Meeting tomorrow at 6:00PM. The topic? Considering Emergency Actions To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas. What does that mean? Clearing the homeless encampments along the railroad tracks, off ramps, hillsides, creeks and sidewalks due to the fire risks and rehousing them elsewhere.
The big question is: Where?
Right now, the City is eyeing the Carrillo Castillo Commuter Parking Lot again. This time it will be a mega encampment instead of a "Tiny Homes for the Homeless" project, which residents successfully halted a few years ago. In my opinion, the plan is much worse and there is absolutely no guarantee that the operation will cease after the fire season.
That said, we do need to clear the encampments due to the fire risks. To do this an emergency order must be passed and sites need to be identified to re-house those from the encampments. The emergency order is easy. The hard part is finding a location where the homeless people can be relocated and where they will stay put.
Why? Apparently if the location is too far away from their regular haunts they may not be willing to stay at any of the locations the City wants to set up to house them. On the other hand, how many of us want a City Park or another property in the middle of a neighborhood turned into a mega encampment?
The Council will want to use a City or County property. That said, ideal locations would include: a kitchen, bathrooms, a large space for indoor housing, office space for services, space for mobile showers and a laundry, and perhaps even spaces for tents in a parking lot. If a building wasn't available then the space would have to be large enough for a mobile kitchen, bathrooms, mobile showers and a laundry, tents and space for services. - A large parking lot or grass area will be needed for any location without a building.
Prime locations where we have the facilities or land for operations of this nature include:
- City Hall's parking lot,
- The City Planning Department's parking lot,
- The Public Health Department off of Hollister,
- The Veterans Hall on Cabrillo,
- The Elephant Bar off of Hollister,
- Any of the City's parking garages,
- The Garden Street parking lot,
- The Clark Estate, which has a huge lawn and is remote, and
- Our City Parks parking lots
Of note, there are over 900 homeless individuals in the City with ~75 age 18-23. There are some families too. So, we will need to open multiple locations throughout the City for distinct homeless populations.
With this said, one area where we should not place more homeless shelters is District #1 until each District has opened its own encampment shelter. Why? District #1 already has two shelters. PATH on Cacique and the United Way on E. Yanonali St.
In my personal opinion the City should avoid PATH as a partner in any location. Why? This is based on the multi-years long problems residents have had with their facility and their lack of compliance with the conditional use permit.
What would I advocate for? I ranked my list from top to bottom and the 1st location I would like to see with an encampment is City Hall.
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