Twenty 10-foot by 16-foot wooden prefabricated units have been ordered that will serve as the first general homeless population emergency shelter in Sutter County.
The emergency shelter will be called Better Way, reflecting both a better way for homeless people to move toward being re-housed, and a better way for the community to provide those who want help a hand up.
The units, which are expected to arrive and be assembled in mid-August, will house up to 40 homeless individuals who agree to utilize services provided by several organizations, with the goal of becoming permanently housed. The shelter will be established on county property at 1965 Live Oak Boulevard, behind the Sutter-Yuba Behavioral Health Services building.
The shelter is expected to open in September. The Salvation Army operates The Depot homeless shelter and drug treatment program in Marysville, and recently opened additional housing in Linda for individuals who were made homeless by the Camp Fire.
Those who access the emergency shelter will be expected to stay no longer than 90 days and to be working toward the goal of acquiring transitional and permanent housing while utilizing the emergency shelter.
The shelter will be modeled on Yuba County’s 14 Forward concept of tiny units coupled with access to services on 14th Street in Marysville. That program has received statewide recognition as an example of practical emergency shelter.
Sutter County has scheduled a community meeting at 6 p.m. on August 22 at the Sutter County Veteran’s Hall, 1425 Veteran’s Memorial Circle, Yuba City, to provide operational details of the emergency shelter.
Until recently, Sutter County has been under a federal court injunction blocking enforcement of an ordinance prohibiting camping on Sutter County property, including county-owned property along the Feather River. The injunction applied to a specific no-camping ordinance adopted by the Sutter County Board of Supervisors in 2017. The injunction was lifted after the Board repealed that specific ordinance, but an older ordinance also addressing where people can or can’t camp remains in place.
Although the injunction has been lifted, local law enforcement agencies cannot cite or arrest individuals for sleeping on public property if there is no alternative location for them to sleep, according to a U.S. District Court of Appeals ruling in 2018. In essence, the court said, it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution for local government agencies to make homelessness a crime. While the court did not require local government agencies to provide shelter, it made it clear that in the absence of adequate shelter beds, local governments cannot remove homeless individuals from public rights of way.
At 6 p.m. Wednesday, August 7, the Sutter County Board of Supervisors will meet in special session at Yuba City Hall with the Yuba City Council for the second session of a workshop on homelessness. During the first session in late May, supervisors and council members heard presentations on the extent of homelessness, efforts to assist those homeless individuals who are seeking help, and the court rulings which prevent enforcement of the no-camping ordinance in Sutter County.