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City of Stockton identifies potential safe ground camping and parking sites

The city's ad-hoc committee on homelessness will hear about the three potential sites in south-east Stockton during a meeting Thursday.

STOCKTON, Calif. — Staff members with the City of Stockton have identified three potential sites to be used as safe grounds for camping and parking for the homeless. The city's ad-hoc committee on homelessness will hear information on the identified sites during a meeting Thursday.

In a September council meeting, councilmembers unanimously approved $1.8 million to be used for safe ground camping and parking as part of $12.5 million in funding for homelessness provided to the city by President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan.

At the safe ground sites, which will be gated, members of the homeless community will be able to camp and park vehicles as well as operate generators.

The sites will be staffed 24 hours a day with three to four staff members per shift. According to the plan, the safe ground sites will also include hand washing stations, portable toilets, meals, a pet area with waste bags and visits from county mental health representatives twice each week.

Christina Fugazi, the vice chair of the city's homelessness ad-hoc committee, believes the safe ground sites are a short term bandage to the city's homeless problem.

"If we are going to look at creating or building more navigation centers or transitional housing, that stuff takes time," Fugazi said. "In the interim, it's important that we have a place where people can go, and that they don't have to worry about violence..."

The plans to open safe ground camping and parking sites will first run as a pilot program with only one location before more sites are opened up by the city, according to city documents.

City staff members researched and visited safe ground sites in other cities, such as the city of Sacramento's safe ground program, when drawing up plans for Stockton's sites, according to the city.

Officials reviewed over 30 potential sites in the city, selecting three finalists which will move forward with next steps. The three locations are pieces of land owned by the City of Stockton or Caltrans along highways in south-east Stockton, near downtown. 

The safe ground sites proposed are at a Caltrans-owned "park and ride" parking lot off of Highway 99 along Mariposa Road, a city-owned vacant lot on Myrtle Street off Highway 99 and another city-owned vacant lot at Stanislaus and Lafayette streets just south of the crosstown freeway.

The locations are in mainly industrial areas, excluding the Stanislaus and Lafayette Street site which borders multi-family apartment units.

Two of the proposed sites fall within Fugazi's district. According to Fugazi, the location of the sites was expected as most services for the homeless fall within her district.

"I figured that we would find a location somewhere in District 5 for temporary, safe camping and safe parking," Fugazi said. "Unsheltered are everywhere in our city, and if we're able to provide a safe location where we can provide some level of service to individuals, then I think that's what we should be doing."

It is still unknown which site will be the first to open as the city's pilot location. The success of the safe ground site will be measured by the amount of homeless individuals moved to shelters, the number of clients being case managed, and the number of calls for service at the location, according to the plan. 

The City of Stockton will now review their owned sites to identify the cost to install pavement and utilities. At the Caltrans site, the state agency will conduct an internal review for potentially lending the land to the city. Caltrans' review is expected to be complete by mid-January.

Fugazi says the timeline on when the first site may open depends on how much infrastructure the city will need to build around a safe ground location, but hopes it will be soon. 

City documents indicate that the city hopes to put out a request for proposals for organizations to provide services at the sites, by April.

"We've just talked about it," said Fugazi. "I want us to at least try something."

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