A state-owned property west of Rancho Calaveras is available to the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to address homelessness, but it likely won’t be used due to infrastructural needs and proximity to services, local officials say.
Located near Warren Road in the 9800 block of Highway 26, the site, which is about a third of an acre, was acquired for roadway realignment, according to California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 10 Public Information Officer Warren Alford.
It’s one of 268 across the state Newsom is designating as available for sheltering homeless people.
“Today, we are making available 286 state properties – vacant lots, fairgrounds, armories and other state buildings – to be used by local governments, for free, for homelessness solutions,” Newsom announced in his State of the State Address on Feb. 19. The move follows a U.S. Urban Housing and Development point-in-time count in 2019 that recorded 151,278 homeless individuals in California.
Surveyed for usage by the Department of General Services over the past year, the properties are meant to provide shelter on a temporary, emergency basis for individuals experiencing homelessness, as long as such usage will not delay affordable housing projects, according to the executive order.
The state is offering local governments $1 leases on state-owned property, and $650 million in state emergency homeless aid can be used to build out sites.
Caltrans was ordered to determine areas adjacent to state highways that could be used, building on relationships with the cities of Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco.
In neighboring Tuolumne County, another Caltrans property on that list is located in East Sonora at 785 Mono Way, at the intersection of Greenley and Sanguinetti roads.
The property in Calaveras County, according to District 5 Supervisor Ben Stopper, is not only “not viable” due to a lack of water and sewer infrastructure necessary to support a shelter, but it’s also too far away from various services people experiencing homelessness may rely on.
“It’s not just providing these people a place to stay,” Stopper told the Enterprise Tuesday. “When the county or the state moves forward on these types of issues, we have to take into consideration whether we’re able to provide a healthy and safe environment at the same time. The infrastructure is not there. We don’t have transportation going down there. It’s miles away from anything.”
Stopper said supervisors should look at other places in the county that are closer to facilities offering mental health services or drug rehabilitation services for those who need it.
“If someone’s working to detoxify for one reason or another, those types of services aren’t there,” Stopper said.
In a Feb. 29 statement, District 4 Supervisor Dennis Mills “declared opposition” to the proposal “if it includes moving them into rural California from urban areas.”
“The details on Governor Gavin Newsom’s new proposal are sketchy. I believe we should carefully explore his proposal before we agree to allow state-owned properties to be used to house the homeless in rural areas,” Mills said. “I am committed to each rural county having a proactive cooperative program to deal with homelessness but we should not allow the Governor and his buddies in the Bay Area to use our communities where they relocate their homeless. I think we show compassion on those in need in our communities but we cannot become the solution to this state-wide problem.”
Newsom’s executive order mentions nothing of transferring homeless individuals to Calaveras County or other rural areas.
Although it’s unlikely, if supervisors were to decide to move forward with a leasing agreement, the location would be the second temporary shelter in the county. An emergency shelter for domestic abuse victims is operated by The Resource Connection in San Andreas.
The point-in-time count for Calaveras County indicated there were about 186 individuals experiencing homelessness as of early 2019. That’s about 0.4% of the county’s population – slightly above the state average.
“By no means am I trying to minimize that there are homeless that need help, and they are in Calaveras County,” Stopper said. “There are some encampments around the Valley Springs area that continue to pop up. It’s something that we do need to deal with ourselves, and I personally think there’s a proper way to do it. We just haven’t come to a consensus on what that is as a board from Calaveras County right now, and that property’s not viable.”