Legal Homeless Camping

This editorial in the Sacramento News & Review makes a case for it, while forgetting that laws against public camping are not meant to criminalize anyone but to maintain public order.

An excerpt.

In April, we asked Sacramento’s elected leaders to get rid of laws that criminalize and discriminate against homeless people. City and county leaders did nothing. Heck, they even said that a discussion of repealing the city’s anti-camping ordinance was a nonstarter.

But now, four months later, here we are again talking about the region’s approach to homelessness. And, this time, the Obama administration agrees with SN&R: Anti-camping ordinances and laws that oppose a person’s right to rest have got to go.

Here’s what happened: Earlier this month, on August 5, the Department of Justice asked a judge to block the anti-camping ordinance in Boise, Idaho. “If a person literally has nowhere else to go, then enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance against that person criminalizes her for being homeless,” the department wrote in a filing.

This move in Idaho reverberates here in Sacramento, where the city passed its own anti-camping law back in 2010.

This law makes sleeping outdoors, resting in public in the park and the possession of “camping paraphernalia,” even on private property for more than one evening, illegal. The law is also a tool that cops use with eye-opening regularity.

As SN&R wrote earlier this year: “In 2014, city police and county rangers issued 1,030 citations under the illegal-camping ordinance. That number is nearly half of the total number of homeless people in the area, according to the 2013 Sacramento Homeless Point-in-Time Count.”

If an individual is cited under the anti-camping rules, that person receives a misdemeanor that comes with a $230 fine. These citations spark all sorts of residual costs for taxpayers.

Some California lawmakers, such as state Sen. Carol Liu, have worked to pass “right to rest” laws—to no avail.

But now, on the heels of the DOJ’s statement, it’s time for city and county leaders to do right by the homeless community. It’s time to end laws that treat homelessness like a criminal problem and not a social one.

Retrieved August 20, 2015 from

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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