Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Town near Yosemite sees more homeless people; churches accused of attracting them

A rural town outside Yosemite National Park has seen an increase in homeless people, especially in an area where people can camp outside for months without being detected, Alice Daniel reports for The California Report, a statewide radio news program. Mariposa, Calif. (Best Places map), has seen a spike in homelessness, blamed partly on the recession and partly on Assembly Bill 109, where "parolees who committed non-serious crimes like theft or drug possession are sent back to the county where they were charged, even if it isn’t their hometown." Last summer there were a reported 40 homeless probationers in the town, reports the Sierra Sun Times. Mariposa's population is about 2,200.

A pair of local churches that have begun providing homeless a place to stay seven nights a week are drawing the ire of some locals, who think offering homeless a meal and a bed only encourages more homeless to come to Mariposa, Daniel reports. Rev. Ginger Foster, pastor of Mariposa United Methodist Church, told Daniel, “I mean people have actually said to me, ‘Because you have this program, people come here.’"

Others fear a rise in homeless will hurt the town's tourism industry, Daniel reports. Ron Iudice, a commercial real estate owner, told her, “We didn’t know who these people were that were in town. At the time there was urinating in public doorways of businesses, just sleeping out in public areas. We were afraid transients were going to scare the tourists away, and so the businesses got up in arms about it.”

Foster said most homeless people she has seen came to town for seasonal work that didn't pan out, or suffer from mental health, substance abuse, or lack of transportation, Daniel writes. "And decent affordable housing in Mariposa is almost impossible to find. ... So far, the county has housed 13 people who were homeless." (Read more)

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