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Sanctioned Homeless Camp Proposed For Justice Center Drive

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Sonora, CA — The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors will vote on developing a camping space for homeless residents on undeveloped vacant parcels on Justice Center Drive near the new county jail, courthouse, and juvenile hall.

Initially, the county was leaning toward a location at 13051 Sanguinetti Road, which faced opposition from many nearby property owners. The Homelessness Committee, along with county staff, is now recommending Justice Center Drive instead. The board will vote on approving the sanctioned camping program at Tuesday’s upcoming meeting.

There would be accessible portable toilets, potable water, and garbage collection provided. Both the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office and the Sonora Police Department would be given priority access/reserved spots. The site would be open seven days per week and 24 hours per day (expect one morning per week for cleaning). Those camping would be prohibited from having weapons, illegal drugs, alcohol, and loud music. There can also be no fires of any kind.

The site requires about $80,000 in needed improvements (grading and rock work). If the county chooses to hire a full-time site manager, it would cost $14,000 per month, unarmed private security for 10 hours per day would cost $13,500 per month, and the toilets and washing stations would cost about $1,500 per month.

The Homelessness Committee is instead recommending a model with no on-site manager with the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office doing basic patrol and enforcement. Under that model, the financial sustainability of the program could last 36.6 months by using available funding, and potential new grant sources. The county has received a $125,000 encampment grant and is seeking an additional $100,0000 as part of the Homeless Housing Assistance competitive state grant program.

The county is also developing ordinances, simultaneously, to move campers from other public lands that are near critical infrastructure and creating public safety concerns. The site on Justice Center Drive would allow for recreational vehicles, cars, and tents in a single spot.

The most recent Point in Time count from January of 2022 reported that there were at least 266 unhoused residents in the county. The state’s automated welfare system data specifically related to CAL Fresh states that there are over 800 people living in the county without a home address.

Tuesday’s meeting, where the proposed site will be discussed, starts at 9 am.