Challenges of closing Hangtown Haven - Opinion
During the last year, Hangtown Haven, the innovative facility for homeless people, has drawn national attention because of its success in getting homeless people off the streets and into rehabilitation and job training opportunities.
The Haven has developed a community, a “family” as it were, of mutual support and care, and has worked to improve the lives of its residents and the lives of others.
The Haven has provided a platform for recovery from addictions and depression, something that is nearly impossible when a disoriented man or woman is alone on the streets or in isolated and illegal camps.
The Haven has reduced public expense by reducing policing and clean-up activities.
The Haven has reduced the risk of wildfires by eliminating many isolated camps where fires are built for survival.
The Haven has reduced public health concerns by providing a clean environment for people who are homeless and where health needs are monitored and met.
In spite of all of this accomplishment the city of Placerville ordered the Haven to close by Nov. 15, 2013.
Where will the residents of the Haven go? The cold and wet winter is upon us. The women and men of Hangtown Haven will not evaporate into thin air. The people who have demonstrated their ability to be rehabilitated and re-enter the workforce will be on the streets, trying to survive. They will be in doorways and behind buildings and in the woods camping illegally. Some may take advantage of the Nomadic Shelter program of local churches which provides a warm dry place to sleep. However, several of these churches have limited space and cannot accommodate 35 to 40 more people than they did during the last year when the Haven was operating. In addition, homeless men and women in the Nomadic Shelters must leave the churches each morning and be sent back onto the streets.
Several residents of the Haven are not physically or mentally able to cope on the streets without the help of their “family” at the Haven. All of these women and men will suffer from cold, wet, potential disease, fear of possible robbery and physical attack.
The county is working to evaluate sites to develop a facility similar to the Haven. This process will probably take several months.
What were the possible solutions? Could the city reverse its eviction action? Could it extend the special use permit under which the site functions? Could the county move rapidly and find another site, perhaps an interim site?
The city and the county have significant resources. The challenge is for these organizations to work cooperatively to prevent the travesty of destroying the accomplishments of the people of Hangtown Haven.