El Dorado County supervisors don’t support homeless center

Eric Jaramishian / Mountain Democrat

It appears El Dorado County’s proposed homeless shelter/navigation center on Perks Court in Placerville will not break ground this fall. A motion to award a construction contract to build the facility and make the necessary budget transfer to pay for the project failed to get the four-fifths vote needed to move forward at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting.

District 4 Supervisor and Board Chair Lori Parlin, who had previously supported the emergency shelter, put in a no vote this time around. She noted that the board had earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, during closed session, voted 3-2 to discontinue negotiations on a property at 471 Pierroz Road — a site for a long-term navigation center.

“Our original board direction was to explore Pierroz. I think that could be a long-term location,” Parlin said. “We only have so many dollars and I want to have the county do its due diligence, which is what we are supposed to do as a county, but the board voted this morning not to do that.

“I will not be able to support these agenda items today on an emergency ordinance …”

Parlin recommended continuing the discussion to a future meeting, to which other supervisors took issue.

District 3 Supervisor Wendy Thomas argued a short-term navigation center allows the county to test the model to see if it will work. On July 28, the last time the project was up for approval, Thomas recused herself from voting due to an anonymous claim submitted to the Fair Political Practices Commission accusing her of having a conflict of interest.

“We have already declared a shelter crisis earlier this year,” Thomas said. “To continue to pivot and delay and to start over from square one does our community such disservice.”

District 5 Supervisor Novasel stated the county needs to move forward with the proposed Perks Court project.

“The sooner the better,” Novasel said. “We have the ability to do that right now and I say we need to move forward.”

District 2 Supervisor George Turnboo, maintaining his opposition to the project, also did not vote in favor of the Perks Court shelter. He was instead in support of Sheriff John D’Agostini’s tabled HOSTESS managed homeless encampment plan that would put a camp on a lot next to the El Dorado County Jail in Placerville.

The sheriff brought the plan, now called HOME, back to supervisors.

“All of the stakeholders in the county would need to come together to make it successful,” D’Agostini told the board, adding that the project would need clear direction from county leaders.

The Board of Supervisors’ chamber was packed and the discussion got rowdy as county residents showed up Tuesday morning to weigh in on what’s been a hot topic in the community.

Edward Ruiz, a 17-year homeowner who lives near Perks Court, expressed his opposition to a shelter in his neighborhood. Area businesses, including Walmart and CVS Pharmacy, would be “perfect environments” for homeless activity like loitering, pan handling and drug use, he maintained.

Ruiz also said the Perks Court location would only encourage illegal camping in the nearby Weber Creek canyon.

“I think Perks Court is the best location for the worst outcome for not only the public out there who shop in those areas, but also for those of us who live there,” Ruiz said.

Housing El Dorado Director Don Vanderkar was in favor of the navigation center, calling it an “answer to the plight of homelessness.”

“We all agree that homelessness is a huge, far-reaching problem,” Vanderkar said. “Right now in the county people are suffering and dying because they have limited opportunities.”

Emma Robinson, previously homeless, said no homeless individuals would want to participate in the sheriff’s managed camp.

“Though it might not be personal, I feel like it would be a personal stab against homeless people if you put them next to where they don’t want to be,” Robinson said. “They feel scared, unsafe and drugs could be just the way they cope.

“This problem needs to be dealt with by people who care and not by people who just want the homeless out of their hair.”

In an email to the Mountain Democrat after the board’s vote, Auditor-Controller Joe Harn stated that money saved by the county for mental health services could be spent to help homeless individuals who are the mentally ill.

“We should be discussing the fact that, as of today, the county has $15 million of Mental Health Services Act funds in the bank,” Harn stated.  “I hope the board and the community get very interested in how effectively we are using our mental health funds. It is my opinion that we should do a better job of helping the mentally ill with the significant amount of money available that is not being utilized.”

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