Group seeks donations for trash container at homeless camp

Give Someone a Chance, a nonprofit organization based in Jamestown, is seeking donations to continue renting a 20-yard trash container for the homeless camp on the north side of Stockton Road in Sonora.

Cal Sierra Disposal, a subsidiary of Waste Management, charges about $600 each month to rent the container. The company empties and returns the container each month, but it costs more than $100 for any additional empties.

The organization has launched a program at the camp where people living there can earn tokens for every bag of trash they collect that can be redeemed for items ranging from a pack of batteries to a bicycle

Donations can be sent to Give Someone a Chance, P.O. Box 272, Jamestown, CA, 95327.

For more information, contact the organization at (209) 206-8045.

The Sonora City Council will consider approving an agreement to provide a portion of the funding for portable toilets at the homeless camp off the north side of Stockton Road.

If approved at a public meeting on Monday, the city would contribute about one-third of the total cost to rent three toilets for an entire year in an amount not to exceed $1,600.

Councilwoman Colette Such said the Sonora Area Foundation and Amador-Tuolumne County Community Action Agency have agreed to cover two-thirds of the cost, which is estimated at about $5,300.

Such worked behind the scenes with several groups to make the project happen because she believes it would ultimately benefit the city as a whole and provide a boost of dignity for those living at the camp.

“I wanted to do this for humanitarian reasons, and it’s a public health issue,” she said.

The total cost includes having the toilets emptied and cleaned twice per week.

People living in the camp either have to go into town for a restroom or find a place to go outdoors.

Dozens of people live on land that used to be a burn dump operated by brothers Larry and Delbert Rotelli.

Such said she met with the Rotellis, who still own the property, to get their permission to provide the toilets.

“They were very grateful that we would do this,” she said.

Due to the land being outside of the city limits, the council is required to make a finding that the funding for the toilets will benefit city residents by improving the “health, safety and welfare of the city’s homeless population.”

Such said the county is unable to provide funding because it’s dealing with a $3.7 million budget shortfall that will likely require cuts to other services and programs.

“They can’t cut money from programs and give money to another,” she said.

The council first discussed the idea of providing portable toilets for the camp at a meeting on July 15 and voted 5-0 to move forward after receiving strong support from some in attendance.

Greg Popovich, who owns a building on Stockton Road that’s been vandalized numerous times by people he believes to be homeless, said at the meeting that he believed the idea was “the beginning of the solution” to problems associated with vagrancy in the city.

Councilwoman Connie Williams said she would reach out to ATCAA about providing money for the effort because she serves on the agency’s board.

Such said that Williams wrote an email to the agency the next day, and ATCAA immediately pledged to provide the funding.

The money for renting the toilets would be donated to Give Someone a Chance, a Jamestown-based nonprofit organizations that provides aid to people in the community who are homeless.

Hazel Mitchell, co-founder of the organization, told the council at the July 15 meeting that her group would assume all liability if the money went through them and pay to replace any toilets that get damaged.

Mitchell and her organization have worked for years to improve the living conditions at the camp and helped several people pull themselves out of homelessness.

Recent improvements at the camp spearheaded by Mitchell’s group include renting a 20-yard trash container each month to reduce littering, in addition to installing a 2,500-gallon tank for drinking water.

People living at the camp have also participated in several recent clean-up efforts that have greatly reduced the amount of trash in the area and cut back weeds to reduce fire risk.

The organization has also converted an old county transit bus into a mobile showering station for the homeless that operates in different locations three to four days each week.

Mitchell said she and the people living at the camp are “tremendously grateful” for the efforts of Such, Williams and the rest of the council and city staff to provide the funding.

“They are all pushing to make this happen and very supportive of what we’re doing,” she said.

Darrell Slocum, executive director of the Sonora Area Foundation, said he reached out to donors after getting information about the project from Such.

Slocum said several donors to the foundation came together to provide a third of the funding for the project because they saw it as a human dignity issue and were concerned about the plight of people who find themselves in those conditions.

“They felt it was the least they could do to help,” he said. “That’s what the foundation is here for — to coordinate and summon that type of support by making our donors aware when needs like that come up in the community.”

The foundation also recently opened a dedicated fund for a separate project to address homelessness called Resiliency Village, spearheaded by a small group of volunteers to provide tiny houses for the homeless.

Slocum said people wishing to donate to that effort can do so now directly through the foundation.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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