Homelessness is an increasing concern in the only incorporated City in Lassen county, with those living on the street residing on riverfront property. Crime along the river has begun to impact businesses, and within months, Susanville fire has responded to multiple encampment fires. The City of Susanville says they cannot enforce the already-in-place camping ordinance. City Administrator Dan Newton during the council’s special meeting, noted that based on a 9th circuit court ruling, it is cruel and unusual punishment to cite and remove those who have no other means of shelter.
Newton laid out a 4 step plan ranging from short-term to long-term solutions. Newton shared that within this week, the public works department will be able to give the 5 to 6 encampments along the river a 72-hour notice that the site will be cleared. Following that, the City plans to file for permits with fish and game to reduce the vegetation that often serves as a haven and hideout for the transient population. This permit will also allow the City to remove makeshift bridges from the river. Newton says this can be expected within the next 30 days. A third step to mitigate the homeless is to change the current camping ordinance to successful model cities. There will be restrictions limiting the time of day and areas within the City where camping could occur.
The final approach discussed is the ultimate goal to find housing for the homeless, working alongside the county. Based on this year’s point-in-time count, as councilmember Schuster said, there are 31 homeless within the City. Resources are available to these individuals through Crossroads ministry, local churches, and Judy’s house. Crossroads has just recently been permitted to house up to 39 beds. Susan Fields with Crossroads shared with the council that they have already had a significant impact in helping those unsheltered and those leaving county jail with no place to go. This year alone, the ministry provided 9,000 dollars in fuel vouchers from Jackson’s and 3500 dollars in greyhound bus tickets. Susan said the problem could be much worse and invited the council and community to see their work, citing they are not the problem, as many have said about the shelter, but they are instead part of the solution.
Another look into the City’s plans to mitigate the growing homeless problem and their success in short-term solutions will be during the council’s upcoming September 21st meeting at 5 pm at City Hall.