Susanville City Council takes steps to deal with homelessness crisis

The Susanville City Council has made addressing the homelessness issue its top priority, and last week city staff announced several steps being taken in that regard.

Susanville attorney Eugene Chittock, who recently threatened councilmembers with recall if they didn’t resolve the issue, said he applauded the council’s efforts because it had done more than he expected. He said his building near the river had only been vandalized three times this week, but that’s better than the week before.

According to the staff report from the council’s Sept. 21 meeting, the council approved a resolution that increased the general fund budget by $30,000 to “address citywide monitoring of homeless encampments and to conduct encampment closures” including “funding to close encampments, remove vegetation (and) establish a Volunteer Trail Patrol.”

According to the resolution, the council has designated the Susan River Trail as well as homelessness as a top council priority; city staff is activity working on eradicating litter, debris, and encampments remnants at and around the Susan River and Susan River Trail; and in order to continue efforts, funds should be designated to cover equipment and materials needed to properly enforce ordinance, eradicate trash and debris and designate staff to said efforts.

At the council’s Sept. 17 meeting the council directed City Administrator Dan Newton to “prioritize the closure of the homeless encampments along the Susan River.”

City staff reported it also has been evaluating the city’s camping ordinance, working with the city attorney, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Lassen County to find solutions to the homelessness issue.

According to the staff report, city staff closed three large encampments Sept. 16, and staff has developed a plan to address these issues over the next month or two.

Those steps are:

  • Continue closing and removing encampments along the Susan River.
  • Determine the enforceability of the city’s no camping ordinance, modify as appropriate.
  • Apply for permit through California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Establish Volunteer Trail Patrol.
  • Work closely with crossroads to establish communication regarding nightly availability of shelter beds.

Over the next 2-6 months staff plans to address the following items:

  • Purchase UTV for Volunteer Trail Patrol.
  • Selectively remove vegetation along Susan River.
  • Close new encampments that may arise.
  • Apply for Permanent Local Housing Allocation Grant to provide housing assistance.

Over the next 6-12 months staff plans to address the following items:

  • Determine options for permanent supportive housing in Susanville.
  • Support Lassen County in their efforts to connect people with housing in our community, including the county’s permanent supportive housing project.