Homeless advocates picketed in front of Placerville Town Hall, in hopes of getting a 90-day moratorium on an ordinance that made camping on all public and private land illegal in the city.
It all started when Hangtown Haven, a year-round legal homeless encampment did not get a permit renewal last November, and was forced to be shut down.
The new law went into effect mid-February, and since then, homeless advocates have protested to revert the decision. The city funded a temporary seasonal shelter, which will close after March. Local church volunteers also try to help, but they do not have permits to house people overnight.
“As of April 1st, these people literally have no place to stay,” Dr. Mary Maaga, Pastor of Mercy Way Rescue Church for the Homeless, said.
However, some came to the Town Hall asking Council not grant their request for a moratorium. Robert Caruso of the Smith Flat Road Homeowners Association said he and 36 friends picked up almost 10,000 pounds of garbage left by homeless near their property, in two days.
“What we are against, are those chronically homeless, those ‘do not want a job’ people that have chosen it’s more fun to live wild and free and get drunk and do drugs while stealing from the neighborhoods,” Caruso said.
However, others said categorizing these people under the umbrella term, “homeless” is unfair, since many are actually trying to transition into a better life.
“Our homeless are made up of women escaping violent environments, drugs and alcohol users, young people who graduate from foster care, mentally ill people, probation, parole, everyone has a different story,” Dr. Maaga said.
Despite their polarized views on this controversial issue, their end goals are essentially the same: help those in need transition out of homelessness.
“We have a like mind,” Caruso said. “The protesters and we the citizens want to help these people. That’s the trick, to find common goals and communicate them.”
At the end of the public hearing, Council members did not decide whether to grant homeless advocates a moratorium. Homeless advocates said they will reconvene with the faith community to come up with a solution, which they hope to present to council in two weeks.