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Nevada City Begins Granting Camping Permits To Homeless People

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NEVADA CITY (CBS13) – A homeless Nevada City man is the first person to be granted approval by the police department to camp legally after the city passed a new ordinance last month.

Since the no-camping signs have gone up, the police chief says some of the homeless have left. Those who’ve stayed, like Bill Peach, say they feel safer and feel like they are part of the community.

Peach gave CBS13 a tour of his campsite.

“This is my little humble abode,” said Peach.

It is a lifestyle Peach says he chooses; he’s been homeless most of his life.

“I’ve camped all over,” he said.

Not too long ago, police made finding a place to camp difficult.

“It kept me leapfrogging to where that’s all I was doing — was just trying to avoid the police,” he said.

However, in the last few months, a new police chief in town has helped that change.

“For once they’re being recognized as part of the community,” said Chief James Wickham.

Wickham’s idea to manage the homeless population was approved in January and required homeless individuals to get approval to set up camp in town. One requirement is that campers keep their site clean. Another is that they stay out of trouble.

“Making sure I’m keeping it sanitary,” he said.

At nearby Sugar Loaf Mountain where more than a dozen homeless people have lived for years, the chief says he found years of trash and human waste.

Some of the people living there have evidently gotten Wickham’s message.

“It went from 15 camps down to three,” said Peach.

Peach says the new law gives him the peace of mind he won’t be told to leave his home in Nevada City.

“Being actually appreciated in the community where you’re trying to live, it’s a good thing,” he said.

Wickham has identified 10 others with campsites who could get approval, but before they do, they must pass a 15-day probation period. After that, they’ll get a 90-day extension while their application is considered. Those who get approval must also stay out of trouble.

Wickham has identified at least 60 homeless people in his community and 500 countywide.

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