El Dorado County Will Pay Travel Expenses for Homeless to Reconnect with Family

EL DORADO COUNTY -- El Dorado County will be paying the travel expenses for some of its homeless so they can to reduce the homeless population in the county.

At last count, El Dorado County has a homeless population of about 600 people. Most of them have always lived there, like Rose Johnson, who owned her own business for 20 years.

"Lost a business, went homeless, now I’m nothing in everyone’s eyes," she said.

Often the best way to get homeless people off the street is to hook them up with family members who are willing to help.

"Having support from loved ones around us is huge in terms of gaining self respect, feelings of hope," said Director of Health and Human Services Daniel Delmonte.

The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Homeless Outreach Team has often helped homeless people reconnect with family members outside the area but getting a bus or plane ticket was a problem for officers.

"They would raise money out of their own pockets to pay for tickets or finding quick jobs for them so these people could raise a little bit of funds for these people to actually pay for it," said El Dorado County Sgt. Anthony Recipe.

That’s why the board of supervisors set aside $2,500 for a pilot program to pay for bus or plane tickets and travel expenses.

Rose knows all about communities wanting to get the homeless out of their jurisdictions.

"Ended up in Reno and all they wanted to do was ship us out. They didn't care, they didn't try and help," Johnson said.

There’s a difference with El Dorado County’s program.

"It’s not about shipping them somewhere else," Recipe said. "It’s about finding people who are ready to care for them and willing to help them and getting them to that place."

"The criterium actually requires them to confirm that there is a willing family member on the other side of that," said Michael Ranalli, who chairs the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors.

Some FOX40 spoke with say don’t forget about those who don’t have a family.

"I think it’s a good idea, but in addition, they need to help the ones who don’t have family anywhere to get back on their feet," Johnson said.

County officials say the program will allow them to prioritize serves to those who have no other options and eventually save the county money.

"We’re diverting people from the continuum of care programs, really reserving those services for those who that’s their only option," Delmonte said.

Of course, the program is just a tiny part of El Dorado County's Homeless Outreach Effort. In most any county, the homeless are overwhelmingly made up of local people rather than those who come in from out of town.