AUBURN, Calif. — The Placer County Mobile Temporary Shelter in North Auburn will soon be providing meals to campers. Given the camp has no onsite kitchen facility or food storage capability, camp residents must currently leave the shelter on a daily basis for meals.
During today’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors supported the request for a provision of two meals a day through a current contract with Summit Food Services, which currently provides approximately 2,400 meals a day to inmates in the county’s jail system.
The new MTS at the Placer County Government Center has been in existence for two weeks and the shelter rules prohibit stoves or cooking fires to prepare meals. The rules are meant to prevent fires and minimize rodent and vermin infestation but they also make it difficult for campers to prepare meals.
“It’s important to understand we are learning as we go and using an adaptive management approach to find what works and eliminate what doesn’t work,” said Chief Probation Officer Marshall Hopper. “We would like to secure meals for these individuals so they can spend less time traveling through neighborhoods to reach businesses on Highway 49, which is the closest food source available. Food service will also encourage campers to engage more with shelter staff to build trust and relationships, which could eventually lead to them accepting services to help them get to a better place in life.”
Summit Food Services has agreed to provide an additional 100 meals a day to the MTS at a cost of $40,000 for the next four months. The current contract is adequate to cover the increased cost without a budget amendment.
“While I support the request, I also want to make sure that shelter residents are asked to assist with the food distribution and cleanup effort so that they are involved in the process of taking care of themselves,” said District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson. “Our goal is to help people get back to becoming productive members of society to the best of their ability so it’s important that we look for opportunities to provide them with responsibilities.”
Currently, 46 of the 50 tents in the MTS are occupied. The MTS includes showers, restrooms, drinking water and a brick-and-mortar facility that is always open to campers looking for a respite from the weather or wanting to engage with shelter staff. First Step Communities, a nonprofit organization out of Sacramento with experience operating low-barrier shelters, is providing 24/7 onsite management with support from the Placer County Probation Department.
The former homeless encampment across the street is now empty of people and has been fenced off but will be opened, by appointment, to individuals seeking their belongings over the next 90 days.
“I just want to say thank you to our Probation Department and CEO staff for their professionalism in handling what is a very difficult situation,” said District 2 Supervisor Shanti Landon. “I believe Placer County is setting the example for other counties to follow as we work within the laws that protect the unhoused. Ultimately, we are doing our very best to assist individuals experiencing homelessness, but we are also keenly aware of the need to protect our neighborhoods and businesses from the element of crime that is often associated with homeless encampments.”
The low-barrier shelter is already showing signs of success as several campers have been reunified with family members and others have willingly enrolled in educational and vocational programs aimed at helping them to obtain jobs. First Step Communities will be tracking meaningful data to help county staff evaluate the six-month pilot project and report back to the Board of Supervisors.