Two things are evident in this story, the homeless are being rousted daily, which means the aggressive—but compassionate—approach taken by the County last year is holding firm, and there is a deep and corrosive culture among the homeless who camp long-term in the Parkway, as the Sacramento News & Review reports.
“This week, as spring hits Sacramento, and as the city’s winter-shelter program comes to an end, campers are again populating the banks of the American River just north of downtown, with the rangers driving them out on an almost-daily basis. It’s a game of cat and mouse between Sacramento and the “river rats” that’s been going on for years, and homeless advocates argue that it’s still not a solution.
“Last Thursday, park ranger David Henry stood watching as a dozen or so men in orange vests stalked along the American River’s south bank, cleaning up debris next to the Highway 160 overpass. Nearby, a woman in her 30s shuffled around inside a tent, preparing to take down her camp; Henry and his colleague had just notified her that she needed to move along or face a fine.
“I don’t really feel bad for most of them,” said Henry, adding that homeless campers have plenty of services provided to them by shelters and churches. And that, for many living in tents and under bridges along the river, their lifestyle is a choice.
“It’s a popular choice lately. On the river’s south bank underneath the Highway 160 bridge, a five-tent homeless camp popped up recently. On this day, it sat unattended. Plastic bags, empty soda cans, food wrappers and gutted Christmas advent calendars lay scattered amid the steep hill’s jagged rocks. Stacked near the tents, one could find all kinds of bicycle parts. Piles of tire tubing, bike tires and a lone mountain-bike frame.
“A dusty, old motorboat bobbed down on the waterline, anchored to the nearby shore.
“Back above the banks, a bearded man with a neck tattoo and a backward baseball hat pedaled by on his bicycle, then stopped to survey the men carrying on with the river cleanup. He scoffed at the term “river cleanup.” He’d call it something else.
““Stealing,” he said. “Taking people’s lives.”
“The man calls himself Squirrel. A self-proclaimed “river rat,” he’s been camping along the American River for two-and-a-half years with his bulldog mix, Porkchop, acting as companion and guard.
“This sort of thing happens almost daily, according to Squirrel. The park rangers sweep through, find the homeless men and women, alert them that they have 48 hours to move or else face a citation, and push along on their way….
“Henry and his colleagues will, on any given day, come across some 125 homeless men and women camped around the American River Parkway. As things get warmer and as programs such as homeless-services nonprofit Sacramento Steps Forward’s winter-shelter program, which provides extra beds for the cold months, come to a close, commuters crossing the river recently have noticed an increase in the encampments.