Anyone reading the Lassen County Times will know the frequently associated issues of crime and homelessness have recently become major concerns among residents. The Lassen County Board of Supervisors has invited the Susanville City Council to participate in a public meeting to discuss the homelessness issue at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18 at Jensen Hall.
Last week Susanville Police Capitan Ryan Cochran updated some information regarding the homeless camps along the Susan River.
While there is a city ordinance banning camping along the river, Cochran said the homeless people cannot be cited for camping there until signs are posted regarding the ordinance.
“Once those signs go up, it can be enforced,” Cochran said. “We can refer stuff to the city attorney or the district attorney for prosecution, depending upon the case.”
He said no citations for violating the ordinance have been issued to date.
“We’ve got the signs, we just haven’t put them up yet,” he said.
But Mike Wilson, city administrator, said he understood some citations have been issued. He also said law enforcement has provided campers with information regarding the ordinance.
Wilson said the city does not receive any funding from taxation, state and federal sources to provide some of the services the homeless need. For example, the county receives funding and has public health and mental health departments that could provide services to those homeless who need them.
Wilson said the city would agendize the homeless topic for its next meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5 so the councilmembers and the residents may discuss it.
“That will give our councilmembers the opportunity to respond to some of the questions,” people are asking, he said.
Wilson said the city’s no camping ordinance complies with current court decisions, so he believes the ordinance, despite some opinions to the contrary, is completely legal, constitutional and enforceable.
Richard Egan, Lassen County’s administrative officer, appeared at the Susanville Rotary Club’s Wednesday, Jan. 15 meeting, and the first question he was asked was about the homelessness issue.
He said homelessness has become an issue at the local and state level recently.
“California seems to be ground zero for the homeless problem,” he said. “A lot of us get lost in our frustration when we see these people … and out of our frustration we want to see them disappear. We want to see them go away by whatever means we can muster … but thankfully in our society, we treasure freedom.”
He said county employees are making contact with the homeless along the river and offering services, but those efforts are not always successful.
“We continue to do that, and we’re having some success,” Egan said.
According to Egan, the numbers don’t seem to support the increase in the number of homeless people in Lassen County that many residents cite.
“The boots on the ground tell me they don’t expect it (the number of homeless) to be any higher than it was last year,” Egan said. “The objective data doesn’t seem to support the level of drama” there is out there in the community.
But Egan said the county would have a better idea of the size of the homeless problem once the figures from last week’s Point-in-Time survey had been compiled and analyzed.