Two cites exist in Redding.
You know about the first one. It has streets and traffic and businesses and parks and hospitals and schools and churches. This first Redding is just a little slice of California, USA, where citizens work hard and play hard. They pay bills and struggle and succeed and raise families and exercise and volunteer and watch TV and enjoy the great outdoors.
Then there's the other Redding - the second one. It's the focus of a series here on anewscafe.com in the following days about homeless encampments within the city limits.
Redding's second city - the one made up of homeless encampments - is primarily hidden, though keen-eyed observers might glimpse portions of these places as they cross one of Redding's bridges or drive along Miracle Mile, or walk, hike or bike the city's trails, greenbelts and open spaces.
People who live here are the unsheltered homeless, many of whom suffer from mental illness and substance abuse. Some of the encampment residents are registered sex offenders, or parolees. Primarily, this population is male, but some women live here, too, all in the great outdoors.
Other days in this series we will explore the various facts and viewpoints regarding the homeless who live in these encampments. We can address exactly who they are, why they're homeless, and the solutions to best help them.
But today, in Part 1, we look at the encampments, and efforts by the Redding Police Deparment, mainly under the direction of Officer Bob Brannon, to tackle the gargantuan task of cleaning up the encampments, and disposing of the literally tons of trash they generate each year.
Some of Redding's most notable homeless encampments are located on both public and private properties. And, by the way, it's illegal to camp anywhere within Redding city limits.
To law enforcement and others who clean up the encampments, or work with the unsheltered homeless, some of Redding's most renowned homeless camp sites are found beneath the Cypress Street Bridge, and in the newly developed Henderson Open Space, and near the old Hatch Cover Restaurant, and deep down in the ravine behind the strip mall across the street from the Shopko Center.
That steep area off Lake Boulevard behind the Masonic Lodge is where anewscafe.com photographer Kat Domke and I recently met with a trio of Redding Police Department officers, Dean Adams, Linda Gisske and Bob Brannon. The officers were joined by four Shasta County Jail trustees assigned to help clear out homeless encampments that had been red-tagged earlier as unlawful encampments.
Our journey began about 8 a.m. on a chilly, clear day. We walked beyond the treeline, just south-west of the shopping center. At the entrance to this area was a pile of rocks with a skinny wooden cross stuck in the center. At the grave's base were plastic flowers and a commuter coffee cup and tiny toys. One officer explained that site was where a homeless woman was found dead last year, with an empty liquor bottle near her body.
As we headed into the brush, a few people suddenly appeared, and fanned out from different points, almost ghost-like, away from the officers. Some of them carried bulging plastic trash bags. Others toted over-stuffed backpacks. Yet others dragged rolling suitcases behind them that bumped along in the dirt. One auburn-haired woman emerged from the wooded area carrying a white shopping bag, while a black dog walked beside her. The woman, whose hair was neat and clothes appeared clean, nodded in the officers' direction, but didn't say a word.
The officers didn't arrest her, or, for that matter, any of the other the illegal campers we encountered that day, even the man who, hours later, yelled at the police when they reminded him that his time was up, that he had agreed to leave before that day.
"Hey! This is America!," he said. "This is bullshit!!"
The police and their crew continued to clean up the surrounding area as the man packed and made a cell phone call for someone to pick him up.
The police officers said there's little point in arresting the illegal campers. The jail lacks the personnel to handle more inmates, so the campers would be quickly released.
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