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Our View: Canal deaths point out need to help homeless

Our View
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Another victim recently drowned in Auburn’s Wise Canal, the sixth since January 2009. Not coincidentally, it was another homeless man. Richard Hill, 50, a transient who had just been released from Placer County Jail a few days prior, succumbed to the icy waterways Nov. 23. Since the Auburn Journal has been keeping close track of the deaths, and other media have picked up the stories, PG&E has erected a six-foot fence along one side of the Wise Canal from approximately Bell to Mt. Vernon roads. Apparently, that isn’t enough to stop the deaths. Auburn has a growing homeless problem. That’s indisputable. There are also more needy families in our community living on the edge, barely able to make it each month without assistance gained through local service agencies, nonprofits, panhandling or, in some cases, theft. Many people, such as Morgan Cate, who lives near the canal and was quoted in reporter Gus Thomson’s Dec. 1 article, “Another homeless canal victim drowns,” believe a serial killer is at work here, preying on vulnerable residents who are most often under the influence. The Placer County Sheriff’s Department reports the latest death, as well as the others, is not at this point considered suspicious. Well, it looks pretty suspicious to many of us. But in any case, what can be done? There are services like The Gathering Inn, which is a multi-denominational nonprofit program providing shelter at churches throughout the foothills for the those who need a place to stay, and are willing to follow the rules. It’s a great effort and deserves our support. In this, the season of giving, consider making a donation to The Gathering Inn if you are so inclined. Another easy way to help is by putting some money into the red kettles you see around town in front of shopping centers, the Post Office and other prominent locations. The hearty volunteers who are out there giving their time, ringing the bells and asking for your donations are collecting much-needed cash for Auburn’s Salvation Army. The Salvation Army is a critical stopgap for those on the edge of homelessness. The Army provides food, clothing and even helps with PG&E bills in certain cases. It truly helps combat homelessness in our community. You can also mail them a check or drop one in the kettle. Journal staff writer Bridget Jones reported this week that Auburn’s only licensed detox and residential drug treatment center desperately needs financial help to stay open. The South Placer Residential Program, located on D Avenue in DeWitt Center, is a potential lifesaver for those with substance-abuse problems. Many homeless in our community abuse drugs and/or alcohol and have mental health problems. If not treated, many end up in our jails, prisons and a few, lately, drowning in our canals. If you have a friend or loved one who has overcome drug or alcohol abuse, you know how critical staying clean and sober is for those who have lost control. The South Placer Residential Treatment Program is another worthy cause this Christmas season and year-round. The problems with combating homelessness are multi-dimensional. Yet, there are ways we can and should help. Still, there might also be predators on the loose in our community. Six deaths in the canals, even though homeless camps are nearby and all were drunk or on drugs, appear to be more than coincidence. If those who live along the canals see something suspicious, they are encouraged to call the Placer County Sheriff’s Department or Auburn Police to report crimes. Feel free to call or e-mail the Auburn Journal newsroom to offer thoughts or ideas as well. Letters to the editor are also welcome. It’s important to note that another person fell into a Colfax-area canal and died recently. Tragically, 18-month-old Zachary Mather of Weimar drowned Nov. 24, after slipping and falling in with his stepmother who was able to get out, but not save the child. Those walking or biking along canals must be aware of the danger and be careful. But there might well be something more going on and the Journal will continue to investigate as long as people keep drowning in local canals. In the meantime, there are a few things residents can do to help: Please consider The Gathering Inn, Auburn Salvation Army and South Placer Residential Treatment Program for a charitable donation. And keep your eyes and ears open. Together, perhaps we can make a difference. -------------------------------- resources Auburn Salvation Army Where: 286 Sutter St. Auburn, CA 95683 Phone: (530) 889-3990 The Gathering Inn Where: 201 Berkeley Ave. Roseville, CA 95678 Mailing address: P.O. Box 297 Roseville, CA 95678 Phone: (916) 791-9355 South Placer Residential Program What: A center operated by the Sierra Council and offering detoxification and counseling services in a residential setting. Where: 11417 D Avenue, Auburn For information or to offer fundraising ideas: Call (530) 885-1917