The Mayor, councilmember and candidates for local office respond to homeless sweep on Commerce Circle
Sacramento, Calif. - by Robert J Hansen
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg addressed Monday’s removal of about 160 RVs and vehicles, many used as a shelter, on Commerce Circle at last night’s meeting.
Eighteen RVs were towed according to the Mayor.
“I don’t disagree that the situation on Commerce Circle was intolerable for businesses there,” Steinberg said. “But the timing and the manner of this enforcement action was not acceptable. We need to do everything possible to provide help and housing before clearing encampments.”
The Mayor said neither himself nor the council has any information on who resided in the 18 RVs that were towed on Monday or where they are.
“We don't know whether these were families if they were individuals … we have no information,” Steinberg said. “Nor do we know where the other 140 plus vehicles are. In or around, other stressed commercial corridors or in any of our overstressed neighborhoods. We just don’t know.”
Steinberg said though the city acted legally in its actions at Commerce Circle but said it goes against the overall city policy.
“The actions may be legal, we have a very good city attorney who I think has been thoughtful in telling the council and the City what it can do,” Steinberg said. “But I’m my opinion, the FAQs, legally correct, policy-wise, were incomplete and inconsistent with the City’s overall policy.”
“If we’re saying people are not genuinely connected in some way, then we are setting up the community for a different kind of a failure. Which is moving people from one part of the city to another without adding more urgently to the capacity to bring into better circumstances,” Steinberg said.
Councilmember Jeff Harris told Theresa Clift of the Sacramento Bee that his staff identified 3000 vehicles in violation of the City’s parking code and Commerce Circle “rose to the top.”
"There's a real balance to be struck by the safety of unhoused constituents and safety of housed constituents and this action was my attempt to strike that balance because what was happening on Commerce Circle had such deleterious effects on many people,” Harris said.
Caity Maple, who is running for city council, told the council and the Mayor how disappointed she was about Commerce Circle.
“It was a little disappointing to see those folks get moved from Commerce Circle,” Maple said. “I hope we have a plan to get some of those folks into housing or shelter as we approach these cool months. It was just disheartening and sad.”
Maple said it was not good for the Mayor to answer with ‘we didn’t know.’
“The City knew,” Maple said. “Jeff Harris said he knew.”
Maple said the City needs to have more sense of urgency and provide trash pick-ups and sanitation services on top of providing more shelter and housing options.
“That one thing (sanitation and trash clean up) alone would alleviate a lot of the concerns from the public,” Maple said.
Candidate for Sacramento County Supervisor Duke Cooney said the city is acting like Ebenezer Scrooge.
“It’s like we have a bunch of Scrooges. I mean come on guys it’s Christmas,” Cooney said. “What kind of message is Sacramento sending by evicting almost 160 families right before Christmas?”
Cooney said it’s like a carrot in front of a horse.
“It's like they’re trying to entice people and say, ‘well we did our part,’” Cooney said.
He thinks the City needs to develop with local advocates to better connect homeless residents with the services and programs created with advocates.
“The City and the County have shown themselves to be the enemy of housing encampments. They’ve done nothing but add additional community trauma by doing these sweeps, without having a plan” Cooney said.
Cooney said every effort should have been made to connect housing and shelter to everyone out there before the sweep happened.
“If you don’t have an alternative if you know that the city is at capacity and aren’t able to help the homeless, then don’t evict, don’t conduct those sweeps,” Cooney said. “Don’t remove the one sense of housing and safety that they have in this world.”