NEVADA CITY (CBS13) - A police chief says he's found a one-of-a-kind way to manage a growing problem in his city, and it's putting the homeless on the hot seat.
A new law would give Nevada City the power to hand out permits to a small group of homeless, which would give them permission to sleep in public. While the new ordinance would give some homeless a place to stay, it would tell others, mostly the troublemakers and the criminals, to stay away.
"I come down here every fall," said Bob Barton, who chooses to be homeless in Nevada City.
For Barton, the new ordinance that would essentially identify law-abiding homeless and reward them is music to his ears.
"The goal is to start managing the homeless population within our city," said Chief James Wickham.
Wickham asked council members to pass a no-camping ordinance.
"It just basically means you can't set up a tent. You can't live in your vehicle. You can't live in the woods in Nevada City," he said.
That is unless you have a permit.
The chief says his program is one of a kind, making only a select few of the city's homeless population an exception to the law, like William Peach.
"There's some of us out there like me who try to blend in with the community," said Peach.
However, others who come to Nevada City to commit crimes or with a criminal history won't be so lucky.
"Those are the ones we really don't want in our city and that we're trying to keep from camping in our city," said Wickham.
"We've seen a huge upsurge in homeless people," Teresa Mann said.
Mann, who owns a business in downtown, says it's about time. And so do the homeless who stay out of trouble and want trouble to stay away.
"If they're homeless and heartless, hey, we got a place for them," said James, who is homeless. "It's called county jail."
For now, the police chief will give out about six to 10 permits. He'll check back in six months to see if the program is working. If it is, that's when he says he'll give out more.
Wickham says he's identified at least 60 homeless in his community, and 500 homeless countywide.
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