Homelessness in California

As in the Parkway, the homeless prefer illegally camping in nature than in cities (easier to hide and find fresh water) as this article from the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

An excerpt.

California housing costs are spiraling so high that they are pushing the state’s homelessness crisis into places it’s never been before — sparsely populated rural counties.

A Chronicle analysis of biennial homeless counts taken early this year across California shows that the sharpest increases occurred not in San Francisco and other urban centers but in out-of-the-way places such as the thickly forested Sierra Nevada and the dusty flatlands and low hills of the northern Sacramento Valley.

Statewide, The Chronicle’s examination shows, homelessness rose by 15 percent from 2015 to this year. In heavily populated centers such as Los Angeles and the Bay Area, where tent cities have long been part of the landscape, even double-digit increases like that might not suggest that something has fundamentally changed. But in rural areas, the increases have come as a shock.

When the number of people without homes in the historic Gold Rush territory of El Dorado County climbs 122 percent in two years, and the farmlands of Butte County see a 76 percent rise, it’s jarring to neighbors, community leaders, police and homeless people themselves. Those counties lack the years of experience that cities have in creating services for homeless people and are starting almost from scratch.

There is no year-round shelter in El Dorado County, and camps are multiplying on the edges of the county seat of Placerville. In Butte County, the few shelters are overwhelmed, and panhandlers who were once an anomaly in the college town of Chico are becoming commonplace.

It’s the same story in places like Lake County, north of the Bay Area; Shasta County, on the slopes of the Cascades; and Imperial County, along the Mexico border — all rural enclaves where housing that used to be cheap has suddenly become less affordable and where homelessness has spiked.

For many low-income residents of such counties, with few shelters or services to turn to when they lose their homes, there’s pretty much nowhere to go but outside. And with a traditional intolerance of downtown drifters, that usually means into the forests, gullies and fields.

“I had a grocery store job and I had a home, but when I had to leave my apartment about a year ago because of domestic violence, I found that whatever I used to be able to afford, I just couldn’t afford anymore,” said 46-year-old Charisse, who did not want her last name used for fear of her former boyfriend. “You can’t even put together first and last month’s rent unless you have a really high-paying job. We’re stuck.”

Charisse sleeps in a camp at the edge of Lake Tahoe in El Dorado County, hidden at the end of a deer trail. She and her tentmates fish for their meals and go into nearby South Lake Tahoe infrequently “because they don’t like homeless people walking around there.”

 

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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