The voice for common sense in the ongoing debate, as this recent column from the Sacramento Bee reveals.
One of the great misconceptions in Sacramento is that the city is “criminalizing the homeless.” This is a claim often made by people with political agendas. Some are seeking to abolish Sacramento’s anti-camping ordinance, which is designed to prevent people from setting up camps anywhere they wish.
The ordinance is about protecting people and property within the city limits. Protesters camped at City Hall for more than a month, however, are challenging the law, saying it unfairly discriminates against the homeless.
This being Sacramento, where political slogans are hatched and exported statewide, the “criminalizing” concept is being aggressively promoted, an incomplete narrative spread around a liberal city often flummoxed by its homeless problems.
Regardless of your stance on the issue, most of us rely on the police to be the front line when we encounter a situation with the homeless that needs immediate attention. According to Sacramento police statistics, there were 36,074 calls for service to police last year that were directly related to homeless and transient people.
If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Calls related to homeless people represented slightly more than 10 percent of all the service calls the Sacramento Police Department fielded last year. Nearly half of those homeless calls for police service – 17,061 – were initiated by Sacramento residents. (The rest were initiated by police.)
When homelessness is debated in Sacramento, voices critical of the police often are heard loud and clear. So where are the business leaders, prominent residents and everyday citizens who are calling the cops to deal with homeless people and who could provide another side to this story?
Good question. Let’s call them “The Silent Thousands.”
A “heat map” compiled by Sacramento Police Department shows that homeless calls are, with a few exceptions, centered in downtown, midtown and North Sacramento neighborhoods. Roughly 20 months ago, Sacramento police committed to a more holistic approach when dealing with the homeless. Its “Impact Team” has sought to more effectively connect the homeless population with mental health and substance abuse services.
Today, the first instinct of Sacramento cops is to try to get a homeless person help with housing or treatment. “We realized you can’t arrest your way out of this issue,” said Sgt. Darryl Bryan of the Sacramento Police Department.
Some Sacramento residents wring their hands about how the city is doing nothing about the homeless. Meanwhile, city officials do a poor job of telling their story about how they are addressing the issue.