Part 3 in a series on the homeless crisis in the region
The City of Jackson isn’t ruling out much in its search for a resolution to the local homeless issue, including safe parking and low-barrier shelters. While no location has been formally chosen, nor any decision made, city officials are diligently pursing funding and information while clean up and outreach efforts remain ongoing.
Two locations up for consideration for low-barrier shelters and safe parking are the Oro de Amador property, owned by the City of Jackson, and the Wicklow Way area, owned by Amador County. The low-barrier shelters would only be temporary mitigations for the homeless population in and around Jackson.
“We are looking at all options,” said Jackson City Manager Yvonne Kimball. “I don’t think there’s going to be a single solution; one thing can’t address it all.”
Kimball went on to state that the Public Works Department and Jackson City Police Department have been heavily impacted by the overall homelessness issue, citing longer hours for cleanup and a heavy volume of calls for service. The City of Jackson has even started using a separate code for homeless-related expenditures to track the fiscal impact of the additional workload.
“There’s never going to be a solution to homelessness,” said Jackson City Mayor Bob Stimpson.
Stimpson continued, stating homelessness can’t be solved, but it can be mitigated. The issue is too far reaching and complex to be completely eliminated. As a result of the limitations imposed by California, the options are limited for Jackson and Martell – the heaviest impacted areas – in terms of immediate relief.
The low-barrier shelters and overnight parking areas would provide a safe space to send homeless, instead of parks and other public areas. Stimpson stated there would have to be additional patrols for the shelters and rules regarding drugs and alcohol. Additionally, funding through available grants would be key to any potential solution, since the city’s budget doesn’t have much room to address the problem.
“It’s going to take everyone working together,” Stimpson said. “It’s not just a Jackson problem.”
The Jackson Police Department reportedly responds to two to three homeless-related calls per day. On average, the department responds to 15 homeless-related calls per week. Those calls took up approximately 8.5 percent of the department’s total call volume from January 1 to June 30. For a department of Jackson’s size, this equates to a much heavier workload for officers on duty.
“We’re contacting (the homeless) on a daily basis,” said Jackson Police Chief Christopher Mynderup. “It’s rough because California is tying our hands on what we can do. If there’s no room in the shelters, we can’t remove them from public spaces. Society as a whole has to come together to find a solution. They are people and they have rights.”
While there are no current plans to expand the police department due to budgetary constraints, the city may seek funding in the future to accommodate additional staff. However, where that funding may come from is not yet known and grant money will likely be key in any expansion efforts for the department.
As far as how many homeless are in the city at any given time, some estimates place the number at a mere 20 to 30. Stimpson believes that number is low given the number of camps that have been discovered and the constant sightings. However, due to difficulties in obtaining an accurate count for a variety of reasons, the full scope of the issue is difficult to pin point.
Information collected by JPD supports the Amador County Homeless Task Force finding that many of the homeless are from the county. Mynderup stated that, due to the size of the community, officers are able to talk to the homeless and gather more information about where they are from.
“No one is bussing people here,” said Mynderup. “Because this is a small community, we would know if they were.”
The ACHTF meets the fourth Thursday of each month at the Amador County Health and Human Services building, 10877 Conductor Blvd. Sutter Creek, at 3 p.m.
The next meeting will be held on September 26, covering No Place Like Home funding.