Sacramento, CA

Advocates and organizations condemn Sacramento’s homeless sweeps that continue to happen

Robert J Hansen

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Sacramento Police officers arrest and relocate homeless people living on Stockton Boulevard on Friday, October 15, 2021.Via Facebook

The Poor People’s Campaign, Sacramento Homeless Union (SHU), Environmental Justice Coalition (Sac EJC) are among the list of organizations that asked the City and Caltrans to stop executing sweeps on homeless encampments throughout Sacramento.

A sweep happened recently today on Stockton Boulevard according to this Facebook post.

The homeless encampment on Stockton Boulevard has been there for over a year.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg, City Manager Howard Chan and Bridgette Dean, director of the Department of Community Outreach have received multiple emails this and last week condemning the sweeps.

Faye Wilson Kennedy, Poor People’s Campaign chair, said community members need permanent housing, support services, access to porta-potties, hand washing stations, showers, health services, mental health services, masks, accessible cooling and warming centers, clean drinking water.

“It is unconscionable that the City of Sacramento continues to penalize and sweep encampments that house people experiencing homelessness at the height of this pandemic and delta variant,” Kennedy said.

Some of the other groups opposed to sweeps are the Sacramento Area Black Caucus (SABC), Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness [SRCEH], Community Lead Advocacy Program (CLAP) and the Oak Park Homeless project.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Mayor stressed his support for maintaining a clean and safe city by conducting cleanups of camps that are blocking sidewalks, infringing on critical infrastructure or occupying private properties, but only if the city first makes a real effort to connect the occupants with services and shelter.

Other potential sites are discussed here.

“In any given situation we must not make a decision to move people from where they are until we have made a focused effort to intervene with them and offer a real alternative,” Steinberg said in remarks to the City Council. “They cannot be separate. They must be linked.”

People, mostly Sacramento natives, are being harassed, ticketed, vehicles confiscated and tagged by code enforcement and law enforcement and in multiple locations according to Crystal Sanchez, Sacramento Homeless Union President.

“Today Sacramento Steps Forward (SSF) social workers went out with one of our advocates and tried to triage people for services,” Sanchez said. “Law enforcement beat them there and scared everybody off.”

On October 4, Steinberg reached out to schedule a meeting with Sanchez but that doesn’t seem to have happened yet.

“I am happy to get together with you ASAP to talk with you in detail regarding the timing and urgency of standing up more sites per the comprehensive siting plan,” Steinberg said in an email.

Moving people from encampments perpetuates the trauma of unsheltered homelessness and can increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 according to Kennedy.

“Unless these solutions are trauma-informed and empower those most impacted to be a part of the decision-making process, they will not succeed in supporting the unhoused toward healthy, stable housing,” Kennedy said.

Instead of sweeping, Caltrans should invest in relocating folks to other Caltrans property or work with encampments to create a safer and cleaner environment for folks to continue to shelter in place.

“I stand with you,'' Herman Barahona of Sac EJC said. “We must not tolerate a culture that discards people, grows numb and distant from the pain of our neighbors, relatives, friends and our humanity.”

Sanchez claims multiple sweeps have happened at 47th Avenue, 48th Avenue, Diaz, 63rd Street, Bercut Drive, Railroad Drive, Northgate inthe last few weeks.

“It is like every year that the league of cities, association of counties and the statewide homeless task force come together to figure out how to get around the laws,” Sanchez said. “It feels like it is a green light after these meetings happen.”

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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, CA
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