This is a fairly simple common sense statement, but caught in the briar patch of political correctness and missing-the-point narrative of “You can’t arrest yourself out of homelessness.” , local leadership has forgotten it, as this story from the Sacramento Bee reports.
On the politically sensitive issue of panhandling, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department has taken the middle ground, citing offenders only “when outreach and education fails.”
The Board of Supervisors, responding to complaints from business leaders, approved restrictions on aggressive panhandling in April 2014. A legal challenge in U.S. District Court by a homeless advocate held up enforcement of the law until the following year.
During an 18-month period ending June 30 this year, the Sheriff’s Department issued 86 citations for the offense, an average of less than five violations a month, according to data provided by the department through a California Public Records Act request.
Among other things, the county ordinance prohibits asking motorists for money from medians or within 200 feet of an intersection or panhandling near banks and ATMs.
Sgt. Thomas Bland, supervisor of the north division problem-oriented policing team, said a unit dedicated to addressing problems with the homeless seeks to help panhandlers before issuing a citation. The unit works with county social workers and a nonprofit homeless services agency to direct the homeless to needed resources, such as drug and alcohol treatment.
“You can’t arrest yourself out of homelessness,” he said. “Law enforcement is often the last answer to the problem.”
Bland’s remarks echo those of Sacramento County Chief Ranger Michael Doane, who last year explained a decline in citations for illegal camping on the American River Parkway by saying that enforcement doesn’t address the underlying problem of homelessness. Sacramento city officials, who are seeking to update their panhandling ordinance, have made similar remarks.
Like in Sacramento County, the city has faced widespread support for increased enforcement from business leaders, who say panhandling is hurting commerce downtown and elsewhere. Officials have also heard opposition from homeless advocates, who say the proposal would criminalize homelessness.