Homeless must go, council decides

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

The city of Sonora has a new law making it a misdemeanor for homeless people to camp on public or private property.

However, the new law is set to expire at the end of the year in hopes that community leaders can come up with a more well-rounded plan to deal with the problem.

The City Council on Monday approved an emergency ordinance that bans unauthorized camping on both city property and public property, empowering police to charge homeless people setting up camps on land owned by absentee landlords.

Backers of the new rules say illegal homeless camps are a threat to public safety. They are associated with crime increases, and are fire, health and environmental hazards, according to the Sonora Police Department.

But opponents on Monday called on the city to find a way to deal with the increasing number of homeless camps without criminalizing homelessness.

The law, which will end Dec. 31, outlaws camping on any city property and sleeping in a car on public property between midnight and 5 a.m.

The law makes it a misdemeanor to camp illegally on private property unless the people are recreational campers supervised by adults, relatives, family or guests of the property owners, or members of an organization like Scouts.

The law allows for overnight camping in a recreational vehicle parked on a public street for up to a week if its occupants are guests at an adjacent residential property.

For the complete story, see the July 22, 2014, edition of The Union Democrat.

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