Homeless populations are often counted using a method called point-in-time (PIT) counts, conducted in January. The 2019 PIT count recorded 186 individuals in Calaveras County and 214 in Amador County. These counts are often regarded as inaccurate because the time of year they are conducted and because many individuals do not want to be counted. What is clear is that homelessness is on the rise and is projected to increase because of the dramatic spike in unemployment that resulted from Covid.
Many of the homeless populations are centered under bridges that span waterways within the counties. These locations provide the best shelter from wind, rain, and sun and the proximity to water also can provide a source of drinking and bathing water. The Foothill Conservancy is concerned about the impacts of human and material waste, particularly on water quality and watershed health but also want to ensure that all have access to clean drinking water. Trash often builds up at many of the homeless encampments because the folks do not have access to disposal facilities or are disabled, making it very difficult to remove what was brought down. A major water quality concern wherever homeless populations congregate is human waste entering the waterways. The Foothill Conservancy recently started the Watershed Protection Alliance with a focus on mapping homeless encampments, engaging and educating unsheltered individuals and providing resources to those in need.
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Larry Patterson, Director, Camanche Village, CA: MS Civil/Transportation Engineering UC Berkeley, BS Civil Engineering University of Texas, private consultant, former Public Works Director and City Manager of San Mateo, recipient of the League’s James L. Martin Award in 2012