County to open low-barrier shelter to assist unhoused and avoid lawsuit
Published Jan. 18, 2023
Placer County is establishing a mobile, temporary shelter for people experiencing homelessness in the Auburn area. Soon to be located at 11517 F Avenue on the Placer County Government Center, the low-barrier shelter will consist of approximately 50 tents with cots and basic bedding.
The creation of the shelter is part of a settlement agreement with the Law Office of Mark E. Merin, which filed a class claim on behalf of several unhoused individuals, alleging property loss during the clearing of homeless encampments on county property in the spring of 2022.
“This settlement avoids a costly legal battle and instead invests public funds in our community,” said District 3 Supervisor and Board Chair Jim Holmes. “We want to put resources towards ending the cycle of homelessness rather than paying lawyers to argue in court.”
The goal of the low-barrier shelter is to provide unhoused individuals with temporary shelter with the hope of securing permanent housing in the future. While drug testing is not required, alcohol and drugs will not be allowed on the premises and weapons will be prohibited. Those who do not abide by health and safety rules will be required to leave.
“This pilot project is an opportunity for the county to address one aspect of homelessness and learn what might work long-term,” said District 1 Supervisor Bonnie Gore. “We can make adjustments and changes as we pursue an effective solution.”
As part of the settlement agreement, the shelter will also provide showers, toilets, trash service, and access to drinking water. The shelter adjoins a county building, which will act as a warming and cooling center during extreme weather. The individuals represented in the settlement will be offered tents first, and any remaining tents will be offered on a first-come first-served basis to unhoused individuals in the community. If all goes as planned, the shelter will open in February.
“This is a solution that I hope our residents get behind as it allows us to assist our chronically homeless population while ensuring the health and safety of our communities,” said District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson. “There are no easy answers to this complex social issue, but I think we have found the best way forward for now and we will course correct if need be.”
Separate from the settlement, the Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on whether to authorize an approximate $1.1 million contract with First Step Communities to manage the shelter over a six-month period. First Step Communities is a nonprofit organization based in Sacramento with extensive experience operating similar shelters. The contract would require 24/7 on-site shelter supervision and basic case management services.