Hangtown HavenBy Tracie Rice-Bailey
A group of activists from Sacramento took a trip to Placerville, California to check out their famous, sanctioned by the City, homeless camp.

I had heard so much about this particular camp that I had to be in the car for the trip. The trip there was uneventful for the most part. Most interesting to me was the fact that the people living right next door had no idea where the camp really was, for we were sent back into town when we asked a lovely lady for directions to Hang Town Haven. She knew about the camp, though.
Hangtown Haven's main road

When we found the camp, we were delightfully surprised. Oh My God, where do I start? It was AWESOME, for real! There was only one small fence secluding the camp from the view of their closest neighbor. How nice to be so well hidden in plain sight. I loved it. To be a guest of the camp you must prove that you are a resident of Placerville--this is how they sooth people’s fear of attracting homeless people from other cities, which they call the ‘magnet theory’.

We drove into a gravel drive, we were greeted warmly by the creators and guests of the camp. My eyes were everywhere. I saw there were porta-potties, four of them, one was even ADA compliant, which means there was a big potty strictly reserved for handicapped guests and the few ladies that were in camp. The camp paid for two of the potties and the company donated the other two. The company services them for free. There was a dumpster, donated by the trash company, picked up for free every week.

Everything was donated, from the land to the work to clear out the mass of blackberries that once grew there, to the running water, to the electricity. Everything was donated and City approved!!! Did you get that? AND CITY APPROVED, that is a big part of what makes this camp happen. A city worker even came and inspected something while we were there and the camp passed with flying colors.

Residents around the community fire
have never seen a cleaner camp anywhere, NEVER. The guests do all the work of maintaining and cleaning the camp. They operate on donations because they are a non-profit, this is a 501-c-3 so they have a tax number and a board.

They had running water from an old well that was on the property, they had power to the camp. They had a warm, open, community area where they gathered around the fire to visit and have meetings. They had a small building where service providers can come to the camp and work with the guests.

They had RULES they must follow or leave the camp. For instance, sanitation was taken so seriously here that if you ever got caught peeing anywhere but in the potty, then you got an immediate one way ticket out, no questions asked! Other violations might bring a verbal warning then a write-up, then an eviction from the camp for a spell. Every Tuesday the camp leaders meet with the camp board to discuss camp matters, every Wednesday the entire camp met to discuss same.

The camp is a dream come true for me, for I saw first-hand how well a homeless camp can run with the blessings of the City and the co-operation of the guests (This camp is self run by the guests). This is the dream I held for Sacramento - but in reality, compared to this city sanctioned, self-governed camp, the homeless people of Sacramento were never given a chance. It was Awesome, for real!

Shed for Service Providers
Inside Service Provider shed