Sacramento, CA

Sacramento Homeless Union opposes Mayor’s obligation to accept housing

Robert J Hansen

Councilmember Loloee says he’s not sure how he’ll vote
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg discussing the city’s master siting plan on SaturdayRobert J Hansen

Sacramento Homeless Union (SHU) President Crystal Sanchez released a statement on Friday strongly opposing Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s master siting plan addressing homelessness.

The Mayor revealed the city’s master siting plan at a press conference last week which will be voted on at this Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Part of the plan includes an obligation to accept services and housing or services and has been met with much criticism from homeless advocates.

“The plan is a deceptive and dangerous con-job designed to circumvent the ruling in Martin v. Boise,” SHU’s statement said.

Steinberg’s attempt to force the homeless to surrender their state and federal constitutional rights through an obligation to accept shelter ordinance which he admitted is now being drafted by the City Attorney according to the statement.

“The Mayor has a way with grandiose words and is holding an ulterior motive here,” the statement said. “He [Steinberg] has a long history of clumping and pushing conservatorship, mental health, and enforcing treatment.”

According to SHU, the winter triage center in 2019 was an internment camp that cost taxpayers $40,000 a month.

"What we see here is segregation of people. We also see again Sacramento putting the cart before the horse," SHU President Crystal Sanchez said. "How do we enforce something we do not have why are we criminalizing or unhoused communities based on the failures elected officials made around housing policy?"

Steinberg was adamant about creating a right to enforced housing at a July 29 meeting with SHU according to the statement.

Attorney Mark Merrin asked the Mayor if he could help draft the ordinance.

“Only if you draft the enforcement,” Steinberg said.

SHU has repeatedly told the mayor any enforcement will be detrimental to an unhoused person.

District 2 Councilmember Sean Lololee said he wants to talk to the mayor before he decides how to vote.

“I think our Mayor is trying his darndest to find a solution that works,” Loloee said.

Loloee said the Mayor has asked activists for their ideas but they do not offer any new ideas.

“Even our advocates are stuck in that old school mentality,” Loloee said.

Loloee said that rent being too high is not a significant part of the issue and it is more than just building enough affordable housing and apartments.

“Rather than sitting here and being politically correct and saying we need more affordable housing … I call that bs,” Loloee said. “We need something right now.”

Loloee thinks spending $40 million on 100 units wastes money and time the unhoused do not have.

“I can spend $10 million and in three to four months have two or three thousand tiny homes,” Loloee said.

Loloee said some of the blame is on advocates because they don’t agree and can’t have a conversation that puts everyone on the same page.

SHU may issue an additional statement on the ill-considered, facially unconstitutional master plan as the August 10 meeting approaches.

SHU said it rejects the false narrative behind an obligation to accept shelter which frames homeless people as not wanting real housing.

“The $100 million should and needs to be used to create permanent housing like what was done with St John's recent modular housing for families,” the letter said. “This plan creates a temporary band-aid on a bleed-out housing crisis situation.”

Gary Painter is the Director of the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation and the Homelessness Policy Research Institute at University of Southern California and has spoken to the Mayor about his views on housing as a human right.

“We can't just offer someone a month in a hotel and if they don't accept it, say ‘okay’ and walk away,” Painter said. “That means we have to think about our approach when making that offer.”

Painter said alternatives that actually protect human life need to be developed.

“We have laws in place that protect people, perhaps from their own poor judgement,” Painter said.

Others may be making these decisions based on several outside negative factors or experiences according to Painter.

“Maybe they have been failed by the foster care system, they’ve been failed by another system, so they simply don't trust the offer,” Painter said.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA

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