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Buzz Brews Over Governor’s Homeless Shelter Sites

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Sonora, CA – As the governor’s emergency plans for combatting homelessness roll out, those at the local forefront are hoping to combat resistance by explaining how bad things really are.

Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency (ATCAA) Shelter Director Denise Cloward, spoke with Clarke Broadcasting on Monday about some of the negative responses she has seen on social media over the past few days in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s actions last week.

One of them, as reported here, was releasing a list of state-owned properties with which local governments could apply to partner with the state to build out emergency shelter projects.

As ATCAA also serves as lead agency, Cloward is very involved within the Central Sierra Continuum of Care (COC), a four-county planning body for service providers and others serving the homeless communities in Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa, and Tuolumne. Over the past two years, it has received major funding awards for numerous programs and is building out a mutually shared database to better assist clients across county lines.

Among the Mother Lode-located properties on Newsom’s list are Caltrans-owned parcels in Valley Springs near Warren Road in the 9800-block of Highway 26, in Sonora at 785 Mono Way, flanked by Greenley and Sanguinetti roads, and adjacent to Preston Castle in Amador.

Cloward acknowledges that she has not been monitoring comments on social media about the Valley Springs site but what she has seen regarding the latter two sites is perhaps 70 to 80 percent negative. “It’s never a question of helping the homeless, it’s always a question of when locating resources ‘where will you put it’,” she says ruefully.

The Broadening Face Of Homelessness

While she says she understands how those choosing to avoid services with severe behavioral health and substance abuse issues impact peoples’ desire to not have shelters located near their homes or businesses, Cloward points to the broadening face of homelessness.

“The senior population is growing so rapidly, many people are not being triaged correctly and communities are lumping everyone together into one negative homeless image…the wage and equality issue is very real and the cost of rents is too high for the wages that people are making so people are falling into homelessness…it is not a choice.”

Cloward believes that some who are among the angriest are those who are struggling to hold on to what they have themselves while others might not understand the enormity of the problem. As she puts it, “It’s hurting and forgetting all the so many more people that are over age 60, single moms with babies in campgrounds, people with cancer, people with domestic violence — these folks are now also outside because there are not enough places to go.”

She stresses a very real need for people to understand that the problem will not go away but only continue to grow if it is not adequately addressed and that the COC partnering entities are all working hard and having success with many of the programs and services that are already being delivered through the communities.

“We need to let everyone know, especially the local boards of supervisors that we very much understand the pressures that are falling on local government to make noticeable changes, and we are ready…we want to share the data because we have a regional system of care that is collecting all that information, so they can see it for what it really is and look at the gaps.”

It really has come down to educating residents about local needs and having communities working together to develop what they need, Cloward says. Whether or not a local government chooses to build out one of the listed sites for emergency shelter, “if we have clear planning, and we have coordination and we have accountability we can really do something good in these communities to make a difference.”


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