Tulare secures safety measures for future temporary encampment

The city of Tulare signed a contract with AAA Security Inc. to patrol the future temporary encampment, seven days a week for 18 months

TULARE –After the city purchased two acres of land for a temporary homeless encampment, they continue to take steps in preparation for a hopeful opening date in January.

At the city council meeting on Nov. 15, council approved an 18 month contract between the city and AAA Security Inc. The contract will provide a security guard from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., seven days a week at the city’s new temporary homeless encampment. The security guard will make hourly checks throughout the encampment and parking lot area each night. The contract is not to exceed $141,480 for the contracted guard and will also not exceed the 18 month period.

“Because the [temporary encampment] is going to be on city owned property, there’s a slightly higher obligation in terms of the property owner, and our responsibility is to ensure that there’s some security there,” deputy city manager Josh McDonnell said. “It provides those folks who decide to use the encampment with some reassurance, but also stays with the intent of the city to keep this as a low to no barrier encampment.”

According to the staff report, the security guard will observe and report any fire, medical issues, fights or acts of violence to 9-1-1. On premises, the city will have a comfortable guard house for the guard to conduct operations from. As the permanent emergency homeless shelter is still at least a year from being completed, the city hopes the temporary encampment will be up and running by January. 

In September the city approved the purchase of a two acre parcel of land on the corner of east Walnut and south O street. A main incentive for the city is to help save lives by moving individuals away from the railroad tracks, where 12 deaths have been reported in the last ten years.  

At the Nov. 15 meeting, councilman Jose Sigala made it known that the council needs to and is continuing to acknowledge any concerns business owners and residents in the area have about the temporary and permanent homeless shelter.

“We need to consider…any concerns that local businesses [or nearby residents] may have… that we do our best to assure as much safety and order to that location,” Sigala said. 

As it looks now, there will be 174 designated tent spaces for individuals that are about 12 feet wide by 15 feet deep. The city will provide tents, and there will be a common area with picnic tables, barbecue grills, fire pits, lighting and a storage facility. According to a staff report, in addition to amenities, the encampment will have direct services like case management, project supervision, mobile shower and bathroom facilities, food relief, medical mobile care unit and a homeless multi-disciplinary team. There will be housing options, rental assistance, housing stability assistance programs and waste removal services as well.

The city plans to prioritize homeless individuals who have signed up for the city’s Encampment Resolution Funding (ERF) program, and have them move to the temporary encampment first. Currently, Tulare’s prioritized encampment area is near the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) corridor from Centennial Park to Inyo Avenue. There are currently over 60 individuals who are signed up for the ERF program in that prioritized area.

The ERF program is a voluntary program for homeless individuals in a city designated area that provides help for those experiencing homelessness. The ERF program is funded through a $1.5 million grant secured by the city. This program brings in outside sources and helps individuals from where they are on the streets, to getting healthy and finding housing. This program will be responsible for several of the services provided in the encampment area. 

As the city continues to get the temporary encampment put together, the city had the opportunity to sign the ground lease with the county for the emergency permanent homeless shelter on Nov. 15 as well. The city has been eager to receive the lease back from the county so that they could know if they would be able to move forward with their plan for the homeless shelter. Now that the city has signed, it will go to the Tulare County Board of Supervisors for their approval on Nov. 29.

“I’m really pleased and I couldn’t be more grateful to the county and their staff,” city manager Marc Mondell said. 

An additional concern for the city of Tulare has been the passage of Measure Y. Ballots are still being counted, but as of the third post election night update according to the Tulare County Elections office, Measure Y has received 65.6% of the vote and it only needed 50% plus one vote to pass. 

Measure Y is what is known as the cannabis business tax ordinance, that will level the playing field between the already established medical turned commercial dispensary, Herb ‘N Vibes, and their incoming competitors, Valley Pure and Token Farms. The latter two are setting up shop near the outlet mall. The measure places the decision in the city council’s hands as to what percentage the cannabis retail businesses will be taxed, which currently the city has set at 5%. Revenue from this tax measure will benefit community needs, such as law enforcement, parks and recreation, infrastructure and most importantly in this case, the emergency homeless shelter. 

“We are very pleased and excited with the results,” Mondell said. “This is a very important measure for this community. Those dollars which are only going to be assessed on cannabis consumption, will be used by the city council by the organization to benefit the community and can be used towards homelessness, public safety, roads and parks.”

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