Cleaning up the Parkway

The title of this article in the Sacramento Bee is Will cleaning up the American River Parkway send more homeless people into the suburbs? 

Of course it will, and that is why the city/county needs to adopt a model that allows for rapid displacement of illegally camped people in the Parkway to a housing and service center able to safely house them in large numbers and adequately serve them in getting out of homelessness.

The plan we have been advocating for years includes sweeps to remove illegal campers, with removal to a homeless transformational campus for safely housing and adequately serving large numbers of the homeless.

A strategy needs to be applied to the Parkway as part of a larger strategy we suggest based on the Haven for Hope—especially the courtyard strategy they use for safe rapid shelter for large numbers of the homeless— program in San Antonio adapted for Sacramento, see our news release of September 28, 2015 on our News Page.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

Piles of garbage, used needles and human feces from homeless campers. County leaders agreed this past week that such refuse is unacceptable, whether along the cherished American River Parkway or on residential streets and sidewalks.

But can the county crack down on parkway camping without pushing more homeless people into neighborhoods?

County supervisors launched a vigorous and unusually frank debate that will continue into the summer as they jockey for more funding to address homelessness and resident complaints.

Supervisor Phil Serna, who represents a large portion of Sacramento, including the lower half of the American River Parkway where homeless camps are concentrated, wants about 37 new park rangers, maintenance workers and animal control officers along the troubled riverbank. He envisions six patrol teams with social service workers and county prosecutors.

In 2016, park rangers cited about half as many homeless people for illegal camping compared to the previous year, drawing complaints from parkway visitors. In one instance this year, a bike commuter ended up in the hospital after being attacked by two off-leash dogs on the parkway.

“This has to be the year that we take a big, bold step,” Serna said.

“We have taken tiny little baby steps out of the recession, and I think for good reason,” he told his colleagues. “I think the responsible thing to do is to take that bold step at the same time that we’re taking other bold steps to add capacity so we can answer the question ‘Where will they go?’”

Pushback came from Supervisor Susan Peters, who said parkway enforcement will send homeless campers into the adjacent neighborhoods, which are already struggling under an increasing population of people on the streets. Peters, whose district stretches along the American River from Arden Arcade to Fair Oaks, said one of her constituents recently tackled a homeless man who walked right into his house.

The region’s homeless population became more visible in residential areas this winter after heavy winter rains forced homeless campers out of the lower reaches near Discovery Park. Even before the storms, Arden Arcade residents complained that they were seeing more homeless people in their neighborhoods than before.

Last summer, residents pushed to shut down a recycling center at Watt and El Camino avenues that they blamed for people scavenging through their household bins. In 2014, the county banned aggressive panhandling in response to complaints from suburban business owners and residents.

“When this invasion by homeless campers began in the unincorporated area is when the county started heavy efforts in the parkway,” Peters said. “If we’re going to talk about moving money out of other departments into clean up, I would rather spread it over all the areas that we represent, not just the parkway.”

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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