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Homeless damage county bridges & compromise levees
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San Joaquin County — under an encampment management policy adopted in April to address health and safety issues involving homeless living in makeshift shelters on county land and public right-of-way — has cleared out five illegal camps.

Three of the camps have cost the county $32,318 to clear out while the final tab for the other two has yet to be determined.

Among issues the county used to justify posting the homeless camps outside of Stockton and eventually clearing them out were:

digging holes to erect partitions that threatened the integrity of levee embankments.

starting a fire that caused significant damage to a county bridge.

burning a neighbor’s fence.

proximity of an encampment to a Head Start program.

a proliferation of needles and human feces along with chemical waste left in the open.

excessive trash that was attracting rodents.

Makeshift fire pits near overgrown vegetation.

the discovery of stolen items by sheriff deputies that also have broken up fights and arrested fugitives at several of the camps.

attaching shelters to bridge pillars.

The county’s policy is not just arbitrarily clearing out every homeless encampment they come across on their property or the public right-of-way. Instead the county’s Community Service Team performs a preliminary inspection of a homeless encampment. It is referred to the homeless Emergency Response Team if serious concerns are noted.

When the ERT determines a homeless encampment must be cleaned and/or closed to protect the public health, safety and welfare the social service members of the team mobilize an outreach effort to identify and engage the occupants of the encampment in an effort to connect them with services tailored to their unique needs including health services and housing assistance, if available.

Occupants are provided with a 72-hour notice to vacate prior to the scheduled clean-up/closure. They’re given a brochure with contact information for additional community services. They are also provided information on where the personal property collected at the site during a clean-up will be stored for 90 days. If an individual fails to reclaim personal property with 90 days it is deemed abandoned and subject to disposal.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email