Along with its impact on the quality of life in Concord and surrounding communities, homelessness is taking its toll on the environment.
And the price tag is only going to increase.
Public works, maintenance and city officials unanimously agreed that hundreds of thousands of dollars that is normally committed to planned projects is increasingly being siphoned off to clean up the debris and remnants left behind by individuals who illegally live on public and private property throughout the area.
Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder said Public Works is committing “quite a bit” to cleaning both city and county lands.
“This is dangerous work,” he said, citing the potential harm from waste like used needles.
Public Works teams up with contractors like Servpro to do cleanups, and the city recently spent $10,000 to clean up encampments along the Martinez waterfront. Schroder expects $60,000-100,000 will likely be needed annually going forward. “I don’t see (the problem) getting better.”
Schroder believes the proactive steps are essential for tackling the problem.
“It’s certainly part of our budget, and it will continue to be,” he said, adding: “It definitely takes away from other quality of life expenditures that we could be making.”
Concord Public Works director Justin Ezell said two full-time employees head cleanup efforts, which are bolstered by use of a SWAP (Sheriff Work Alternative Program) team of individuals who are working off fines or court-ordered public service sentences.
While acknowledging the importance of getting services to those in need, Ezell grizzled at the thought of fewer taxpayer dollars available for the betterment of quality of life issues.
“Maintaining parks and providing program for kids and seniors – all of those resources could be much better used than basically picking up after others,” Ezell said.
David Nichols, acting maintenance superintendent in Pleasant Hill, concurred and put it in terms of dollars and cents. He noted that $800 per week for salary and benefit costs is going toward cleanup from transients, and he believes that money could be better spent improving the quality of life for all residents.