Once a disregarded CDC advisory, the disbursement of homeless camps may have become a disregarded order with claims of sweeps made after Sacramento County stay-at-home legislation was revised to prohibit camp disbursements.
“To maintain public health and safety, allow people who are living unsheltered, in cars, RV’s, and trailers, or in encampments to remain where they are,” reads the updated order, noting exceptions for individuals residing at the encampments who have both immediate access and safe passage to housing.
Sacramento Homeless Union President Crystal Sanchez had expressed support of the revision, yet also voiced skepticism as to whether it would be followed.
“We’ve tracked this through COVID, we’ve been nice about it, we sent a cease and desist to the mayor, we received a letter saying that they would stop,” says Sanchez of the organization’s involvement in the issue.
Sanchez reports, however, that since the time of the update there have been six distinct transgressions by the Sacramento Police in which they have disregarded the order and conducted camp sweeps.
She describes an incident that occurred after the update that was reported to the Sacramento Homeless Union in which police confiscated a homeless child’s Lego toys, and described other incidents in which officers have played high-volume music in order to rouse camp inhabitants, as had occurred in previous sweeps.
The Sacramento Homeless Union has filed a lawsuit in response, implicating the city and county of Sacramento, as well as County Board of Supervisors Chair Phil Serna, County Sheriff Scott Jones, the County Department of Health Services and department officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye, City Mayor Darrell Steinberg and City Police Chief Daniel Hahn.
Additionally, plans to relocate the state’s homeless population into hotels and motels appears to be at a standstill, with less than 10 percent of the Sacramento county homeless population presently occupying motel rooms.
Sacramento Homeless Union attorney Anthony Prince referred to the figure as ‘disgraceful’, commenting that “there are rooms sitting empty that have been paid for with federal and state monies and homeless people are not being placed in those safe quarantined individual locations.”
The US government has also recently denied the cities of Sacramento and San Francisco approval for homeless shelter projects, including a 100-tent shelter planned by the city of Sacramento along the Highway 80 overpass on Alhambra Boulevard near X Street. Mayor Darrell Steinberg has nevertheless expressed optimism that permission to resume work on the shelter will be restored.
Sanchez has criticized mass shelters however, specifically criticizing their lack of a priority treatment system. “It’s not about just sheltering people,” she notes, “it’s about needing to triage. It’s near impossible to triage with mass shelters.”
The Sacramento Homeless Union shared a press release regarding the lawsuit on Tuesday, May 26th, describing a disbursement incident that occurred two days after the updated order.