Homeless Clean-Up

This project appears to be based, somewhat, on an idea we presented to Loaves & Fishes several years ago—see our 2005 report: The American River Parkway Lower Reach Area: A Corroded Crown Jewel, Restoring the Luster, (pp. 34- 36) which we described as “a job training program for the homeless cleaning up the Parkway, based on the Ready, Willing, & Able model.” (p. 34)

However, the way it is being used now, doesn’t appear to have, primarily, a job training aspect, but rather one of cleaning up the mess they have made, and in that respect, we would agree with the River District business and property owners appreciation for the effort, while retaining the skepticism expressed by Bob Slobe.

Being appreciative of the clean-up efforts while being skeptical of their motivation are certainly compatible, and reasons to come down on one or the other will become resolved as time goes by.

It would seem that the clean-up in those areas where the mess is created by the homeless clients of the homeless services in those same areas, needs to be done at no cost to the businesses and the Parkway being trashed, but instead funded by the organizations whose concentration of homeless services in that area have caused the problem in the first place.

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee article

“Crews of homeless people who have been blamed for trashing neighborhoods, businesses and parkway property around the Loaves & Fishes charity in downtown Sacramento will be put to work beginning next week tidying up areas where they congregate.

“The new program is a response to a rising number of complaints about the impact of hundreds of homeless men and women who get meals, counseling, legal help and other services at the sprawling complex on North C Street, said Loaves & Fishes executive director Sister Libby Fernandez.

“We absolutely have been feeling the heat, especially during the past few months,” Fernandez said. “We would like to be part of the solution, but what can we do with the limited resources that we have? Right now this is what I can do, help the neighborhood get rid of the trash.”

“Some are skeptical about the motives and potential impact of the project. “It’s a PR move and worse,” said North Sacramento developer Robert Slobe, whose family once owned 440 acres in what became the American River Parkway.

“Slobe called the proposal “a scam” and predicted it will have little or no impact on the underlying problem of homeless campers who have turned portions of the parkway into dangerous dumping grounds.

“Others said they appreciated the effort.

“I’m going to welcome any help … and hope that it is something that truly does make a difference,” said Patty Kleinknecht, who leads the River District business and property owners group in the Richards Boulevard area. The area has one of the city’s highest concentrations of services for poor and homeless people, which has created friction between groups that serve the homeless and businesses that have to deal with the consequences of their presence.

“I am not going to criticize someone doing something to help clean up the area, because things are very difficult right now for businesses here,” Kleinknecht said. “We’ll have to see how things move forward in terms of creating good will.”

“The project will operate through the Loaves & Fishes legal clinic, which arranges for homeless people charged with misdemeanor crimes including trespassing, illegal camping and urinating in public to perform their community service at the homeless services complex.

“Starting Monday and every weekday, Fernandez said, crews of 10 to 15 people wearing bright yellow vests will venture outside of the facility to the River District neighborhood, parts of the American River Parkway and other areas to collect garbage, clean sidewalks and pull weeds.”

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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