Sacramento Moving Homeless From Tent City

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

SACRAMENTO (AP) - Sacramento officials are giving residents of a homeless camp until Wednesday to move and are providing shelter for those who want it.

Police officers were handing notices to the roughly 150 people who live in the so-called tent city about one mile northeast of the state Capitol.

The camp gained notoriety after it was featured on the Oprah Winfrey show. It often was portrayed in media reports as holding hundreds of people, many of them victims of the recession who were driven into the streets after losing their jobs and homes.

Homeless advocates in Sacramento paint a different picture. The area has been a homeless encampment for years, in part because it is close to a local food bank. Many of its residents are considered chronically homeless, plagued by drug addictions or mental health problems.

By Monday, about 50 of tent city's residents had moved out, some to a shelter at the state fairgrounds operated by Volunteers of America or to longer-term housing units. The city is spending about $1 million this year to create temporary shelters and provide apartments and other types of permanent housing.

Many others don't want to leave or go to the shelter at the fairgrounds, where they will have to abide by certain rules.

Danny Gonzalez moved his tent from the encampment to a location about a half-mile upstream along the American River. He and two others who moved to the new location blamed Winfrey for drawing attention to the tent city, leading officials to dismantle it.

"Clearly the bulk of the people are still outside," said Tim Brown, director of the 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness in Sacramento County, a project of the Community Services Planning Council. "Some of the residents of the community were threatening civil disobedience when push comes to shove later this week. They seem to have backed off on that."

Brown said his organization's surveys show most tent city residents desire permanent housing.

Sacramento officials are not sure what strategy they will pursue if some campers ignore Wednesday's deadline, city spokeswoman Wendy Klock-Johnson said.

"We're still discussing that with the chief of police," she said. "Our goal is to get these people the help that they need to take advantage of the programs that are available."

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District, which owns the land, posted "no trespassing" signs around the property Monday. A survey crew was marking the boundary so crews could install a fence.

SMUD spokeswoman Elisabeth Brinton said the property had to be fenced so the utility could make repairs to an electric substation located on one end of the long, narrow swatch of SMUD-owned land. The substation contains electrical equipment and transmission lines.
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Associated Press Photographer Rich Pedroncelli and Staff Writer Don Thompson contributed to this report.


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