City and county leaders have shelved plans for a “tiny homes village” for homeless individuals in downtown Woodland, saying they’ll focus now on a larger residential “campus” for those without a home on the city’s outskirts.
Officials said last week they backed away from the downtown village after two dozen residents blasted the idea at a recent Yolo County supervisors meeting.
“I think that is how it has to be. It’s more of a recognition that the more you intrude on the existing residential areas, the more push back you’re going to receive,” Supervisor Gary Sandy, who is also Woodland’s former mayor, told CapRadio last week.
Sandy says it will be easier and more economical to build housing and services for homeless residents “where there’s less impact or potential impact on the surrounding neighborhood, and where they’re more likely to be accommodated by the existing community.”
The decision comes as Woodland grapples with an 80 percent increase over the past two years in the overall number of people without a permanent home, both sheltered and unsheltered. That total jumped from 131 to 238, according to the bi-annual Yolo County Homeless Count conducted in January.
During the two-year period, the number of people who spent their nights in cars, abandoned buildings or on the streets — defined as the unsheltered homeless population — tripled in the suburban city from 51 to 163.
County officials say the practice of counting homeless people has improved, which they say accounts for some of the increase, though other factors such as a lack of affordable housing have made the situation worse.
Last month, city residents packed a Yolo County board of supervisors meeting to oppose the downtown village plan. They said it was too close to their existing homes.
“I am in high opposition to the location of this project, but I am in support of a project like this. We do need it. Our homeless are overtaking the city,” resident Bill Lamb said.
Alexandra Rudorff echoed that concern. “It was clear you intend to put a trailer park for homeless around the corner from where we live,” she said.
Other planned housing projects for homeless people are less controversial.
Last week, the city and county announced a $5.3 million state grant to build a larger residential “campus” for people who are homeless. It would open in an industrial zone at Beamer Street and County Road 102, far from the city’s residential neighborhoods, and would include about 60 permanent supportive housing units with on-site social services.
Also in Yolo County, the state awarded about $7 million for a West Sacramento project that would build 85 supportive housing units for those without a home, said Ian Evans, homeless services manager for the county’s health and human services agency.
The money comes from a program called No Place Like Home, which lawmakers approved three years ago and uses revenue from California’s so-called “millionaire’s tax” to finance housing for homeless people throughout the state.
Woodland’s residential campus project would take about three years to complete. Sandy said its remote location makes it an easier sell.
He added the city and county still want to pursue the tiny homes village concept. It would use prefabricated homes and could be built much faster. But any future village plans, he cautioned, would be proposed at a less controversial site.
“You need to balance the input from the public, with the need to address this issue,” Sandy said. “If you’re not careful, you’ll end up doing nothing about the issue while the public continues to complain about it.”