New homeless camps line levee in Marysville
Special to The Union
Despite ongoing efforts to open an emergency shelter and connect homeless people with services, more and more encampments are popping up around the Marysville-Yuba City area.
Since levee work finished last spring, trailers and tents have lined Second Street up to Whiteaker Hall, which has seen an influx through the fall. Behind the Bok Kai Temple on First Street in Marysville, smaller encampments have popped up as well. And the Thorntree area next to Jack Slough along the Feather River is also seeing larger encampments, despite the area being cleared out in spring 2017.
With a federal court injunction on enforcing no-camping ordinances since last spring, both Yuba and Sutter counties are at a standstill until they are able to open emergency shelter.
“We have to be so careful because there’s that soft court precedent; we cannot uproot encampments with no place to put them,” Yuba County public information officer Russ Brown said Thursday. “We’re trying to be more deliberate in addressing those needs.”
Marysville Police Chief Christian Sachs said officers have certainly seen an increase in encampments
“The challenge is not having a regional shelter and, with the current laws, it makes it difficult to find those alternative locations,” Sachs said.
With the federal injunction, officers look for other ways to cite those causing a mess or trouble for business owners, residents and the city.
“We’re constantly down there evaluating to see if there are any violations,” he said, like littering, animal services issues and arrest warrants. “We’re also engaging with them and an assessment team we participate in in reuniting them with family, finding transitional housing … there’s a lot of effort going into trying to make that connection.”
In Yuba County, 78 people have gotten into permanent housing, 62 people have gotten employment, 63 people are now receiving Social Security benefits, and more than 1,200 have been connected to other services like substance abuse support and behavioral health. Brown said those accomplishments are meaningful, especially with the bi-county push to address the widespread issue.
Recently, Sutter County was approved for a $365,000 grant to develop the emergency shelter currently planned for 1945 Live Oak Boulevard, where current bi-county Behavioral Health is located. It hopes to receive the money soon.
The shelter would serve up to 40 homeless people, giving them a place to rest and get assistance from social service case workers, according to Appeal-Democrat archives.
“This is a situation that every community in California is dealing with,” Sutter County public information officer Chuck Smith said Wednesday, “and there isn’t a solution that’s been identified that is really effective; there isn’t a solution that is quick, that’s non-controversial.”
Smith pointed to other regional efforts to address an underlying factor of homelessness: lack of affordable housing. The Regional Housing Authority is currently seeking funding for a 40-unit housing project in Yuba City, near Richland Housing on Garden Highway, for homeless and those with behavioral health issues. The Yuba City City Council approved a portion of the $850,000 loan request, and the authority is applying for federal low-income housing tax credits through the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, according to archives. And $3 million in state funds is expected to be routed through the bi-county homeless consortium for homelessness services — the most local counties have received in state funding for the issue.
“I think the solutions are lining up, but it’s so dynamic in terms of what can be done,” Brown said.
But officials say the emergency shelter will only help a small portion of people and is a tool, but not necessarily a solution.
“I don’t think there’s anybody who believes the emergency shelter will solve the problem,” Smith said. “We’re going to be looking at additional steps. In California, the big issue is affordable housing.”
Especially with an influx of Camp Fire survivors coming into the Yuba-Sutter community, county officials are seeing more people unsheltered and a tighter housing market. And with rainstorms affecting Oroville Dam levels, they have to focus on getting people to higher ground and address the health emergencies at the river bottoms.
“It’s a whole different dynamic over the last six months now,” Brown said. “It’s pervasive and the homeless problem has not gone away.”
Rachel Rosenbaum writes for the Marysville Appeal Democrat. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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