SACRAMENTO HOMELESS ORGANIZING COMMITTEE AND SACRAMENTO (LOCAL) POOR PEOPLE’S CAMPAIGN: POSITION ON THE STOCKTON BOULEVARD CAMP AND MAYOR’S $40 MILLION PLAN
The Mayor’s $40 Million Plan Should Be Rethought Because The Proposed Emergency Shelters Will Not Make A Real Dent On Homelessness And The Money Would Be Better Spent In Supporting Permanent Housing, Jobs, And Self Governed Communities
We do not oppose shelters. People need to get out of the weather. Emergency shelter and its ability to connect people to resources and support services can play a role as an entry point and a transition from the street to permanent housing, if such housing is funded. However, the plan to Spend $40 million for short term, emergency, mass shelters should be rethought. The emergency shelter model outlined is not cost effective. Such shelters would cover only a fraction of homeless people currently on our streets. (20% or less). With thoughtful planning and diversification of strategies we could come much closer to ending homelessness for many more people with that $40 million.
- Self-determined survival strategies, such as group camping, can also serve as entry points if the City and County supported such camps with dedicated sites, de-criminalization, sanitation, trash collection, improved shelter/tents, and services. Respect homeless residents’ civil rights, including search warrant requirements and expunging minor violations.
- The plan links shelters with police services. This is unjustified, wasteful, and intimidating to homeless and other residents. It sends the wrong message and leads to criminalization of the poor.
- Emergency shelters do not address root causes and will not stem the flow of homeless economic refugees who are without incomes and shut out of expensive housing.
- Emergency shelters provide only a band-aid, as well as political window-dressing, and they cost a lot. A good example is the current $400,000 per month spent for a hundred-bed shelter. For this cost, many types of permanent supportive housing (such as group homes or apartment buildings) could be rented or purchased through leveraged funds.
- A proposal for 2 years of funding is irresponsible and simply takes us into the next election.
- Services for those with mental illness and for those in recovery must include the option of permanent homes.
- The County as well as the City should be held accountable.
- Homeless organizations and homeless individuals should be brought into decision making. A homeless commission to review plans and propose budgets should be created and should include these organizations and individuals.
- Vacant, chronically tax delinquent, and abandoned properties should be claimed by eminent domain and made available to homeless and near homeless. Homeless people should be hired to fix and maintain the properties.
- Self-governance of homeless communities, leadership development, and stability in place (right to rest) should be the governing principles for dealing with tent communities. Sanitation, trash collection, supportive services, and stability should be the key principles.
- The government should fund, protect, and serve self-governing homeless camps so that the residents can maintain clean, attractive, well run communities. The Anti-camping ordinance should be modified or repealed. “Safe parking” spaces would allow people to sleep in their cars without threat of arrest.
- Non-profits, including Sacramento Steps Forward, who have contracted to provide services should be audited to curb high administrative costs. These programs should be reconfigured and annually audited for complete transparency.
ADDRESS ROOT CAUSES
- It’s not about the money – it’s how the money is used. A cot and a lunch bag does not address root causes. Managing the poor to get them out of view is not the answer.
- Do not use homeless funds to pay for police services.
- The City can use eminent domain to seize vacant and abandoned housing. These properties can and should be made available to house homeless people and families.
- Local governments should employ homeless people to fix vacant properties so they can be rented for homeless and near homeless residents.
- Sacramento should follow the lead of cities like San Diego that have funded and built permanent supportive housing units and other approaches to prevent homelessness and house the poor.
- Sacramento should prioritize programs that allow groups of homeless people to earn enough collectively to pay first and last month’s rents, and deposits.
- City programs should pay decent wages in cash and not simply gift cards. Landlords do not accept gift cards.
- The city should help homeless people to get business licenses. Many people have good skills they can use but are discouraged by hiring discrimination.
THE STOCKTON BOULEVARD CAMP
- Recognize the Stockton Boulevard camp as a contributing part of the Sacramento community.
- The Stockton Boulevard camp is a good location for a self-governing homeless community because of the size of the lot, because it is accessible to public transportation, and because it is in a neighborhood of mixed residential and business uses.
- A self-governed, clean, well-run tent community would be an asset to the surrounding neighborhood, including gardens and communal facilities. Clear the way for churches and other property owners to allow camping or shelter, as well as other services, such as communal meals.
- When or if the land is taken for low income housing the tent community can be established elsewhere.
- There are many models across the country for self-governing houseless communities. Sacramento Safe Ground (a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit) has developed models of self-governing communities and would provide assistance. Seattle has permitted and supported self-governing houseless communities. Portland has Dignity Village — a community of self-built housing. “Right 2 Dream Too” in downtown Portland, offers a safe nightly area for rest and respite on a tiny private lot. Clean and friendly, run by houseless residents, Right 2 Dream Too serves as a model for immediate relief.
- In light of the goal of establishing a functional community, the county should support, protect and fund the Stockton Boulevard camp. Basic services, including trash collection, sanitation, services, and resources should be provided right away, and ongoing. The lot should be professionally cleaned to eliminate bio-hazards and pallets to raise the tents should be provided.
- Leadership development, through immediate engagement of volunteer organizations, should start right away in order to support the creation of a governing council.
- These are economic refugees and they should be afforded stability (the right to rest) dignity and respect. Do not disrupt this camp, do not arrest or scatter the people.