Illegal Camping

To some folks, the homeless camping in public should be legal, including in the Parkway—we strongly disagree—hence the lawsuit reported on in this story from Sacramento News & Review.

An excerpt.

It’s a new year, and activist groups are fighting the city over what they consider a laundry list of ordinances and actions geared at making things more difficult for homeless Sacramentans. These activists are unequivocal in their position: They say the city has made homelessness a crime.

They say there’s motive, too. Local attorney Mark Merin claims that the increased pressure on homeless people is tied to the arena deal. “The truth is, [the city wants] to beautify the downtown. [It] had a very conscious program,” he said.

The next action will be the A Right to Rest rally on the Capitol Mall next week, on January 20. This protest will immediately precede oral arguments in an appeals case concerning the constitutionality of Sacramento’s illegal-camping ordinance— a hot button issue for homeless-rights advocates, and a case involving Merin directly.

Several people whom Merin gave permission to use his fenced-in property at C and 13th streets were repeatedly removed in 2009, their belongings confiscated by Sacramento police, he says, all because these individuals were sleeping outside.

Merin sued the city in February 2010, but the case was thrown out, the judge upholding Sacramento’s ordinance as protective of public health and safety. He filed an appeal, arguing that making it a crime to sleep outside when no shelter space is available is a violation of constitutional rights.

There has been a spike in arrests and citations for illegal camping in Sacramento over the past year. The 2014 numbers rose by 140 percent from 2013, according to Sacramento Police Department spokesman Justin Brown.

The cause of that jump isn’t clear, but Maya Wallace, external affairs director at Sacramento Steps Forward, suggests the increase in arrests could be attributed to more people camping on the streets in general, or to the increased construction activity in the downtown area. When a city undergoes a major constructive change, she said, “people get pushed to the margins.”

But numbers like these have prompted Sacramento Steps Forward to work with the city. Last year, city council approved up to $1 million over a two-year period in a partnership with Steps Forward. The money will help utilize a new assessment tool—a database of the homeless individuals in the area and the services they receive—as well support an expanded outreach program, which will target services in the areas where more homeless people are dying.

Retrieved January 16, 2015 from

City Code on Camping

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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