Camping ban puts area homeless population on the move in Yuba-Sutter |

Camping ban puts area homeless population on the move in Yuba-Sutter

Lori Otis-Kennedy and her husband, William Kennedy, are being forced to move their camp from over the levee on 14th Street in Marysville due to a county-wide ordinance setting restrictions on where people can camp.
Jeff Larson/

Some of the Yuba-Sutter area’s homeless say they are in a state of desperation due to the approval of an urgency ordinance last week by Yuba County Supervisors prohibiting camping at various locations around the county.

Sutter County is considering approval of a similar ordinance within its jurisdiction, leaving fewer options for homeless living in and around the region and over the levees.

Under the Yuba County ordinance camping is prohibited on private property without the owner’s permission; on any park grounds or trails; at the airport in Olivehurst; at the cemetery; on any property within or below 200 feet of the high water mark; on any levee or inside of 50 feet on the landside toe of the levee; and on any county property immediately following sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset (with weather exceptions).

Many of the same locations also have personal property prohibitions in place, leaving little wiggle room for alternatives, said Bryan Brown, executive officer of the Tri-Valley Marysville Homeless Union.

“The new ordinance as I see it is going to put these guys in harm’s way,” Brown said. “We’re always in harm’s way, but this is going to set them up for (potentially) breaking the (law).”

Brown, who has been an advocate for the homeless with his wife, Raelynn Butcher, said the ordinance might be on shaky ground legally, citing past court rulings giving rights to homeless individuals.

Thalia Fowler, a 15-year resident of Yuba County – 11 of which she has been without a home – said she currently does not know where to live.

Fowler said she was booted from behind the Bok Kai Temple to a location over the levee on 14th Street. Now she’s told she can’t live there and has until Thursday morning to leave.

“Where else are we supposed to go?” Fowler said.

Rhonda Thomason, another homeless individual in a similar predicament, said the ordinance is not the right solution.

Thomason said simply trying to rid the area of homeless may create more of an issue in the long-term.

“Where do they want everyone to go?” Thomason said. “They’re going to jail them? Trying jailing 300 homeless people, good luck with that.”

Thomason, who admitted that at one point she felt homelessness was avoidable simply by finding work.

Now she’s more sympathetic and puts the blame solely on government and society in general.

“We created the homeless,” Thomason said. “There’s no jobs for anybody here. What job is here for these people?”

Thomason said if government wants the area preserved long-term try using the homeless as an advocate rather turning against them.

“If they want this place cleaned up, hire the homeless (and) see if it works,” Thomason said.

Jeff Larson is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat. Contact him at

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