Park rangers at encampment enforcing notice only hours before order rescinded
Sacramento, Calif. -- Robert J Hansen
Sacramento County Park Ranger Unit gave homeless residents 72 hour notice to vacate their encampment along the Sacramento River on Thursday according to residents of the encampment.
Homeless resident, Twana James, said County Park Rangers have been rude and uncompassionate toward residents of the community.
“They have told us all different kinds of reasons for why we have to move,” James said. “They say they are going to help but they just want us out of here.”
According to Lisa Nava, Chief of Staff for Supervisor Phil Serna, the encampments at Steelhead Creek and Bannon Island received a notice to vacate due to fire risk.
“Sacramento City Fire sent out correspondence to our Regional Parks Director regarding the fire danger,” Lisa Nava said via email.
Park rangers have threatened elderly residents and have not helped connect residents to housing and health services according to James
“They told a 72 year old woman they are going to bulldoze her home,” James said.
Sacramento County Public Information Officer Kim Nava said that park rangers would not “bulldoze” anyone’s camp.
“These folks can get in touch with any ranger they can get their stuff for them,” Nava said.
According to James, some residents have lived at the encampment for ten years and are not being offered any health or relocation help services from the County
“They have offered nothing just telling us to move in 72 hours,” James said.
District 2 Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost said a county public health order prevents the County from removing homeless camps unless it poses a public safety hazard.
“For an encampment to have received notification to vacate under these circumstances tells me the occupants have acted in a way that puts the health and safety of others at risk,” Frost said via email.
Frost said she believes that the failure of our mental health system is responsible for a large portion of the homeless population and drugs are another huge life altering dilemma.
Samantha Corbin, founder of government affairs consultant agency Corbin and Kaiser, said Sacramento County is forcibly removing seniors who have been peacefully camping for a long time, failing to provide services.
“Why are you allowing homeless, peaceful Seniors to be forcibly removed and pushed deeper into the city into residential and business areas with no belongings,” Corbin said via Twitter.
Lisa Nava said that DHA social workers are onsite and making contact with encampment residents to offer connections to resources including immediate food access, CalFresh, MediCal and assessments for shelter entry or motel vouchers.
“DHA typically makes it a practice to visit ahead of noticing events, but this was an emergency,” Nava said.
Park Rangers always seek to connect homeless individuals with whom they come into contact with shelter and services according to Frost.
“Unfortunately they don’t always wish to accept help,” Hedges said.
A park ranger asked if this reporter if he had received a notice to vacate as park rangers drove by, advancing on the encampment around 3:30pm on Friday.
Loaves and Fishes Director of Advocacy Joe Smith has been helping the community since the pandemic began last year and was at the encampment around 1:00pm Friday when park rangers arrived.
“It seemed like we were supposed to be their that day,” Smith said. “Those folks were rattled and that was completely unnecessary.”
According to Smith, the County has decided to engage people experiencing homelessness with police.
“They fail to see that they complete traumatize a group of people who are living a pretty traumatic life to start with,” Smith said.
Many of the residents would accept assistance but are not told that by park rangers and social workers have come to the encampment to offer help according to James.
“They keep telling us that they want to help us but nobody has come to help,” James said. “The encampment wouldn’t have made it through the pandemic without Joe."
Friday evening Sacramento County offical Janna Haynes said the order to vacate has been recunder and residents will have two weeks to relocate according to ABC10.
"We are delaying the notice to allow more time for the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance, working with City of Sacramento staff, to continue its work with the encampment residents to offer connections to immediate food access, CalFresh, MediCal and assessments for shelter entry or motel vouchers and relocation assistance," Haynes told ABC10.
James has a GoFundMe page helping feed the elders at this encampment.