Homelessness, Safe Ground, & the Parkway

Today’s editorial in the Sacramento Bee expresses support for the Safe Ground approach as one resolution to the local homeless issue, but that will result in more people camping in the Parkway as it will increase the attraction of the Sacramento 12thStreet/Richards Blvd. area (the probable location of a Safe Ground site) to the homeless nationally.

Our approach to local homelessness comes as a necessary result of researching the issue and its impact on the American River Parkway resulting from the long-term and wide-spread illegal camping by the homeless in the North Sacramento area of the Parkway, allowing them easy access to the concentration of no means test services clustered around 12th Street/Richards Blvd.

We feel the models that work are means test models that encourage responsibility for life change prior to help—except in the case of the chronic homeless where we support the Pathways to Housing model—and there are means test models locally, such as Cottage Housing.

Bringing more homeless to the area, as Safe Ground would, is not a solution, but a deepening of the problem.

An excerpt from the Bee editorial.

“Around 2 p.m. last Thursday, Angel Martinez, a 37-year-old ex-con, was riding his bike through the Woodlake Recreation Area, his tent and other survival gear piled in the wheeled carrier he towed.

“Martinez had been ticketed for illegal camping just a few days before, but he was scouting a new campsite along the river for the night, utterly undeterred by the threat of another citation. He says he lives day-to-day, working construction or landscaping, being paid under the table in cash, earning enough to eat, he says, but not enough to pay rent.

“If police take him to jail, he wouldn’t care. “I wouldn’t have to worry about feeding myself three times a day,” he says. “I’d have room and board, all that.”

“Martinez embodies the dilemma county and city authorities face as they try to rescue the American River Parkway from the homeless.

“Scores of destitute people sleep in the parkway some nights. Martinez is better off than most. Many are mentally ill or addicted to drugs or alcohol. The sanctions they face for illegal camping don’t deter them….

“The needed response, of course, is more affordable housing, legal alternatives to illegal camping.

“Safe Ground, the advocacy group seeking help for the most desperate among the homeless, has changed its proposal for a city-sanctioned tent city to bare-bones cabins. To win local government support, specifically a site within the city and permits to build, advocates must go further. Safe Ground residents will have to accept the presence of a professional staff to direct their community, heavy social service inputs and strict rules against drug and alcohol use, including random testing.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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