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AUGUST 31, 2021
PRESS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
County Closing “Camp Hope”
The health and safety of County residents is the top priority of Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors and Staff. Due to potential health risks at the location of “Camp Hope”, the County is shutting down this encampment and working to relocate individuals off the property and into safe housing, rehabilitation, and/or services as is possible.
For some background, “Camp Hope” on Stockton Road is an encampment of homeless persons outside Sonora that historically was used as a municipal burn dump site for the Sonora area. Municipal waste was brought to the site and burned before many of the modern environmental regulations overseeing solid waste today, and while it was closed down years ago, the property still contains significant amounts of garbage burn ash which can contain hazardous materials that are dangerous with long-term exposure.
Additionally, the accumulation of solid waste, on-site grading, and construction of non-permitted structures has led to violation of several Tuolumne County Ordinance Codes and state Health and Safety Codes, and became further of concern after several fires and criminal actions in the area. For those reasons, on May 26 of 2021, county officials informed individuals living at “Camp Hope” that they would need to relocate off the site. While it is a continuing and renewed mission at the County to address the issue of homelessness, we can neither tacitly endorse nor turn a blind eye to code violations that threaten the safety of our community now and have for many years. With this said, the County in partnership with many leading community groups have relocated 48 individuals off the property, and been able to provide services that are the first steps towards getting these people back on their feet: emergency housing, employment and training support, substance abuse recovery services, mental health programs, medical care, and COVID Emergency Case Management to name a few.
County staff have been working with property owners and the state agency CalRecycle for several months, and the next steps will be removing debris from the property, securing it with fencing, and obtaining funding to support these efforts.
In order begin to safely close the burn dump and secure it from future trespass, all individuals living at the site are ordered to vacate the property and not return. On August 25, 2021, the County blocked an entrance to the property with K rail in order to restrict access as part of its abatement process. County staff, at the direction of the property owners, are continuing to follow up with individuals remaining at Camp Hope to notify them that they must leave the property immediately and provide every opportunity to come into services. Follow up visits by County staff will occur as necessary to ensure no individuals are living on the property. The Washington Fire evacuation area included Camp Hope, and individuals were evacuated to ensure their safety. As the closure was in place the County determined it was prudent to block further access so individuals would no longer trespass on the Site. Once all of the individuals are relocated, the County along with CalRecycle will initiate further remediation actions on the site, including removing all abandoned vehicles, solid waste and structures and testing the soil to ensure the former burn dump is appropriately closed and a fence will be installed to prevent further trespass. These actions will occur over the next several months and into 2022.
It is our hope that these actions combined will protect the immediate safety interests of our community while we seek to address the root causes of homelessness through housing, addiction recovery, mental health resources, and financial opportunity.