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Ordinance, working together can help homeless

Services do help those who need it
By: Jenifer Gee Journal News Editor
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Mike Pacheco clearly remembers the night he was kicked out of his trailer, his home of seven years, and spent the night standing in the rain. He called his ex-wife and cleaned up at her place and moved on. Homeless for the first time in his life, Pacheco slept on benches, carried his belongings on his shoulders and found a safe place to camp. He found seasonal work at Ross in Auburn and walked to work every day. When the 49 Fire tore through Auburn Aug. 30, 2009, “I had nothing but my flippers and shorts,” Pacheco said. “I just kept trudging forward,” Pacheco said. “I thought, ‘Why God? There must be something I must be here to see or know.’” Today, Pacheco and his companion, Beth Warwick, are more than grateful that they’ve both found jobs and are close to moving out of the Toyota Tundra they live in and into a home. Both say they are grateful for help from Auburn churches, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church and other services such as those provided at Placer County’s Welcome Center. Providing food and shelter as well as ways giving homeless tools to search for jobs are just some of the solutions to house the homeless, according to Susan Farrington, chairwoman of the Placer Consortium on Homelessness. “The agencies working in PCOH are doing a tremendous job looking for every possible source of funding to meet the needs in the community,” Farrington said. The consortium is a compilation of representatives of a plethora of nonprofit and county agencies who meet once a month to talk about homelessness in Placer County and what can be done about it. The group’s most recent success was securing funding of a $1.24 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant was spent over two years from the end of 2009 and continues into 2011 to help those who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless. “By the time we’re done with the grant we’ll have assisted more than 400 households in Placer County in maintaining their housing,” Farrington said. Putting the stop on panhandling Deputy Kevin Griffiths, who is the Placer County Sheriff’s Office transient liaison, said supporting nonprofit groups is one of the best ways to help those who are homeless. “Giving your money there goes a lot further than the $2 you give to the guy on the street,” Griffiths said. Griffiths said that money given to panhandlers usually goes to buy alcohol or drugs. “We have a large amount of homeless trying to get jobs and a very small percentage out there who want to drink,” Griffiths said. “Those flying signs are mostly the ones after alcohol – their fix for the day.” The Placer County Sheriff’s Office and the Auburn Police Department have both joined forces to draft an ordinance addressing panhandlers. The ordinance is still in its formative stages, according to Auburn Police Capt. John Ruffcorn, but should give law enforcement an extra tool when encountering panhandlers. He said area nonprofits are also part of the discussion. “Obviously we want to address this on a community basis and not an entity basis,” Ruffcorn said. “Not all of these people need to be or should be arrested.” Community can help Griffiths said there are those who are holding signs with legitimate requests, such as those standing by Home Depot and asking for work. Work is something that Pacheco and Warwick value dearly. Pacheco recently found a steady job with at Wally’s Natural Inc. in Auburn. Warwick works graveyards and swing shifts at her jobs. “We work seven days a week,” Warwick said. But Pacheco is grateful for it. “I don’t want to ever be homeless again,” Pacheco said. Griffiths said the community hardly notices couples like Pacheco and Warwick. “You don’t see them because they’re out trying to get a job,” Griffiths said. Farrington said she and those with the consortium plan to keep working to help those like Pacheco and Warwick and others. She added that anyone in the community interested in helping is welcome to attend the group’s monthly meetings. “It’s neverending work but we’re all committed to doing the best we can for the community,” Farrington said. “The more people that are interested in homeless needs and can come to these meetings, the more we can do. We’ve got some very bright people in this community who could really make a difference if we call come together.” Reach Jenifer Gee at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- Placer County Consortium on Homelessness What: A collection of nonprofit organizations, county agencies and homeless When: Meets second Thursday of the month Find more: Call Chairwoman Susan Farrington at (530) 889-2437 ----------