SUTTER COUNTY -- Sutter County is preparing a proposal for a temporary homeless shelter that has some businesses and residents up in arms. While everyone agrees that the problems caused by the homeless who live along the Feather River must be solved, just where to house them is still a matter of heated debate.
Just like in many other communities, the homeless in Sutter County are drawn to areas around the river. That's one reason Sutter County has floated the idea of a temporary homeless shelter at a site across the levee from where the sheriff operates a training center.
There is a plan for a concrete pad for large tents, toilet and shower facilities, and a place where social services can help people find permanent homes.
Those who use the river access nearby for recreation say the shelter would help reduce the trash and human waste they often encounter.
“It couldn’t get any worse, could it?" said Annette Voorhees.
Voorhees sees so many homeless people at the river that she knows some of them by first name. She says the shelter would be a chance for some to change their lives around.
"If I found myself homeless, and there were an opportunity like that, I’d be like 'wow, cool, maybe want to get out of the whole thing," Voorhees said.
But the county’s plans will run into opposition.
Business people at the Sutter County airport next door to the sheriff’s facility say they are opposed to a congregation of homeless nearby. Some have been the victim of break-ins they attribute to the homeless.
Also down the road, is the Peach Bowl Little League, where several hundred children play their baseball games. Parents and league officials say it would put families in danger. Even supporters of the shelter have doubts
"A lot of them are shady…" said Voorhees.
This area of the river was cleared of the homeless several times during last winter’s flood events, but they have since returned.
County surveys show that 80 percent to 90 percent of the homeless are local and do want to get off the streets and the riverbeds.
But federal rulings say anti-camping laws can’t be enforced unless there is an alternative. And the county has some success with its homeless programs.
One homeless woman says she appreciates offers for help, but..."unless there’s a problem, I think people should mind their own business and give people the constitutional rights they were born with," she said.
A formal proposal will be presented to the Sutter County Board of Supervisors next Tuesday and is expected to draw some heated public comment.