Pulse of Concord

To emulate Martinez-type homeless camp, Concord would need additional resources

Pulse of ConcordCONCORD, CA—Amongst the questions in the next Pulse of Concord survey will be a series on homeless attitudes, experiences and possible policies.

People constantly ask me why Concord can’t set something up along the lines of the Martinez amphitheater camp for 30 folks run by Noralea Gipner.

The city of Concord does not have something that can match this in an isolated place away from high traffic areas. However, there may be some private business or non-profit that has a place. If so, contact me as I am working on at least the collection of volunteers to run the place. But there is much more needed.

Here are some of the aspects I gleaned from several tours of the Martinez place.

Facility by the numbers

The Martinez camp is about the size of a baseball field. Tents are ideally placed on four square pallets covered with two 8×4 wood sheets within a 10×10 pop up that is in the process of being screened in. I say ideally because this is a project still in the making.

The Fire Department mandates that 400 sq. ft. of tent area must be separated by 20 feet to the next quad, as well as 10 feet from trees and bushes. There are fire extinguishers throughout and a central fire bell. There is a mandated escape route, which is a gate that can be opened from the inside, and solar lights scattered. The fencing is covered with an opaque mesh to provide privacy that is being changed to be fire resistant.

Electricity is supplied to the site, and there is a small concession stand style or half garage building that is used for refrigerators and storage shelves for food. Another small building is used for cooking, with electricity to run microwaves and hotplates.

They have three to six porta potties and a cold water tent used as a shower.

There is a 20-foot storage container on site. The facility has a locked gate in the evening.

Screening of occupants

They do not take in people from CORE (Coordinated Outreach Referral, Engagement) or 211. People currently have to be from Martinez.

They must apply in person, and the city of Martinez runs background checks. Noralea and her volunteers generally conduct multiple interviews and may also include some of the existing people.

Screening is designed to see if the person is stable enough and a good enough fit for the encampment. There are no exact written requirements relative to mental health and aspects of addictions, but the emphasis is on potential stability in a group setting.

Drug use is allowed in your tent, but you have to be able to dispose of needles properly as it costs $4,000 if one of them is tossed in a porta potty – as has happened.

Almost 80 percent are male from middle age and older and overwhelmingly single. Fifty percent have a source of income, and a smaller number have jobs.

People inclined to romantic or physical involvement can cause serious problems and may not make it through screening. If it manifests afterward, it can lead to reconsideration depending on the scope of the problem.

Visitors are strongly discouraged, especially overnight. And the emphasis seems to be on developing a tighter community and a group home style.

The basic rules

Keep your self-medication or vices to your tent.

People are assigned or told to clean up and, in fact, they do community cleanups elsewhere.

Make trouble at the site and you are kicked out, backed by the encampment community and police.

There is a weekly community meeting to talk about issues.

There is much more to the operation. It puts the leadership on 24/7 call that has been used about every other or third month to deal with internal disturbance or outside intrusion.

This is a thumbnail review of what is there. If anyone has private land and facilities that are suitable, let me know at EdiBirsan@gmail.com.

Edi Birsan is a Concord City Council member. The views herein are his alone. They are not reflective of city government or any other attempted organization of human beings or ethereal creatures of group think and action.