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City And County Support Exploring Idea Of New Structured Homeless Camp

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Sonora, CA — Both the City of Sonora and Tuolumne County endorsed the idea of looking into a potential collaboration with other local groups towards creating a camp to help those impacted by homelessness.

It is an early action in what could be a somewhat lengthy process. A site will need to be selected (potentially purchased) and it would also go through a public review process.

Members of the Tuolumne County Commission on Homelessness addressed the Sonora City Council last night, and the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors this morning.

They requested support for a concept of establishing a sanctioned, independently managed campground-style site. It could include providing sanitation and water to the camp, and other services from non-profits.

Tuolumne County has seen increasing homelessness over recent years, and a previous site, Camp Hope, was closed by county officials due to safety issues. The various supervisors urged collaboration with non-profits, law enforcement, and others when moving forward.

At today’s meeting, Board member Jaron Brandon estimated that there are around 30 “unsanctioned homeless camps” in the county. He added, “These are frequently on private lands and it presents a huge difficulty for property owners. It is expensive to cleanup and difficult to bring out volunteer crews. It pollutes our waterways, and it is also not safe for the people out there.”

CAO Tracie Riggs noted that the county had spent time in the past investigating the Jamestown Mine Site as a possible location, but indicated that the plan failed to gain traction. She noted that people want the county to “fix It” but never want solutions near their property. She also noted that purchasing or leasing land will take county resources, so the board will need to weigh what level of support they wish to provide at future meetings and decide if staff should reassign resources currently working on other priority projects.

District One Supervisor David Goldemberg argued, “We need to move forward. I don’t want to be here a year from now talking about if we should do this.”

Board Chair Ryan Campbell said he agreed with Goldemberg’s sentiment.

Supervisor Anaiah Kirk noted he has strong opinions surrounding homelessness and would like to later give input that would help him buy into the end concept.

Supervisor Kathleen Haff also supported moving forward.

Click here to view an early concept document put forward by the county’s commission on homelessness.

Last night the Sonora City Council also voted 5-0 to further explore the idea of a collaborative homeless camp.