By Ron Swanson

Everyone is well aware of the problem of our homeless population in Tuolumne County. Some are the result of the poor economy of circumstances beyond their control. Unfortunately many have chosen this lifestyle.

Many have mental disorders, drug dependency, alcoholism, are on the run from law enforcement and some are just plain lazy and have no incentive to rise from their situation.

As a former law enforcement officer, I have dealt with these types of people and am well aware of their threat to the community. I know first hand just how violent some of these people are.

My 16 year old son was murdered by a homeless person during a burglary and robbery. This is a very serious situation. Many seem to have money for drugs and alcohol, but not for food, basic living needs or housing. Many of these people are dangerous and are habitual criminals. They are a cancer in our community. The cancer needs to be eradicated or at least be treated.

I feel sorry for the children that have to live in these intolerable conditions. This should not continue. I have a suggestion to bring these people out of the shadows, to have better monitoring of their activities and have a safer environment for the community and for the homeless.

Most of these people are living in tents, abandoned buildings, in isolated areas from law enforcement and around businesses. My suggestion is to create a very basic needs campground for these people. There would be no fees charged. It could be operated by a County of State entity or a joint effort by State, County and City. Create campsites that would include an area for a tent, a car, fire pit and a community restroom with sinks, toilets, showers and large sinks for cleaning clothes. Keep everything basic, with no frills.

The campground would be exclusively for homeless and transients. They would check in at the entrance, would have to follow strict rules, could be run for warrants and there would be limitations for how long they could stay.

They could stay longer if they were seeking employment were receiving mental health services, had children and/or were staying clean from alcohol or drug abuse. Laws would have to be followed and enforced.

Existing homeless camps would have to be cleared out and cleaned up (perhaps by the people that created the messes, to qualify for additional time at the campground). Law enforcement would need to enforce existing laws regarding loitering, unlawful entry, trespassing, etc… If there aren’t adequate laws to control the problem, then enact County and/or City ordinances and then enforce them.

It is not sufficient to just tell most of these people to move along because they will be back within hours or the next day. The homeless community campground would provide a place for them to go.

A community campground for the homeless should not be located in a prime area for tourists and visitors to our area. It should not be located near schools, residential areas or businesses. Locations such as Jamestown Mine area or similar areas could be considered. A suggestion was made to use the City owned 24.5 acre property located near the north-east corner of Stockton Road and Highway 108. I think that this could be a big step in protecting landowners, the public, businesses AND the homeless. We are a very giving community. There are people in our area who would volunteer time and money to make a project like this a reality. There has been too much talk and very little action. Without someplace for these individuals to go, this problem will never be solved. Let’s move forward with viable solutions.

Ron Swanson lives in Twain Harte