The narrative put forth by local leadership is that the homeless in Sacramento are Sacramento resident’s (mostly families with children) primarily down on their luck and victims of not enough low income housing.
This article from California Globe reveals a diametrically different narrative.
“Police, firefighters and hospital staff say easy access to drugs, no consequences and lucrative panhandling is what attracts transients to California
“Todd,” a physical rehab therapist with a major medical center in Sacramento says all of their hospital security has been diverted to the emergency room because ninety percent of transients are violent when they come in. “One of our security guards had his leg broken, a physical therapist was punched in the head repeatedly and a nurse was hit in the face resulting in a broken nose. Some of the staff have gotten bed bugs and MRSA from transient patients and are terrified to come to work. My coworkers break down crying on a regular basis from how overwhelming the issues are.”
“According to Todd almost one hundred percent of the transients are meth addicts, the majority being males. “Some come into the hospital for injuries from an assault and about half make up chest pain complaints because they know it’s a one or two-night stay, requiring x-rays and lab work. In the past few years, the ER wait time has gone from one to six hours, and the hospital is at capacity seventy-five percent of the time with patients in gurneys lining the hallways. Sixty to seventy percent of our beds our taken by transients who are long-term residents at a cost of $8,000 per night, per person. We had one transient here for 400 days and another for two years.”
“Todd explains that transients have government funds averaging from $1,000 – $4,000 a month, and that he sees only one person a year who is actually from Sacramento and has never seen a homeless family. “They tell me they come here for easy access to drugs and no consequences. “They know if they happen to get arrested, they’ll be out soon. And they also say they can get the most money from panhandling in California. One transient actually told me how stupid I was for working so hard, because of how easy it is to get free money.”
“Todd, who was urinated on by a transient because he didn’t want to participate in a physical rehab session, says he got into this line of work to help people and wants to be the best part of the worst time in their lives. “We want to make people better, but they don’t want to get better or are incapable from their drug addiction and can no longer care for themselves. Less than ten percent will actually go into a shelter; the majority want to stay on the street, which is why housing is not the answer.”
“Kyle,” a firefighter paramedic with the Sacramento Fire Department, says there is a lot of pride to be with the department, which has a rich history and set of traditions dating back to 1872 when it became the first paid professional department west of the Mississippi. “We are one of the busiest and lowest paid, and now firefighters are leaving for other cities because the amount of transient calls is lowering morale. In one forty-eight-hour shift, forty percent of the calls will be transient-related.”
“One small grass fire on the American River Parkway will take three engines for a few hours, leaving neighborhoods without fire units. The parkway is completely destroyed with needles and feces at every campsite.” Kyle adds, “There are daily calls for violence and sexual assault in the transient community, and it’s very sad to see women who are raped and strung out on drugs, not file a report because their lives are being threatened.”
“Kyle, who has also never seen a homeless family, says ninety percent of the transients they come in contact with are drug addicts, with the majority being males who are on meth and refuse all services offered. “We are seeing a lot of overdoses and almost one hundred percent of transients are not from Sacramento. They come to the Greyhound bus station, and call 911 to get into the system, citing a stomachache or a refill for pills as the reason and we have to take them. Once they’re at the hospital, if they don’t like the answer they get from the doctor, who is likely refusing to give them opioids, they request to go to another hospital which is by ambulance and ties us up for hours.”
Kyle, who became a firefighter because he truly enjoys helping people, said one of the worst calls he was on was where a dog was left in a transient’s car in the heat, and with his leash on he tried to jump out of the car and hung himself.
“Brad,” a former officer with the Sacramento Police Department, has never interacted with a transient on the street who wasn’t a drug addict and didn’t have a rap sheet averaging dozens of arrests for crimes such as burglary and assault with a deadly weapon. “It’s rare to see someone on the street whose mental illness isn’t drug-induced. I’ve seen multiple transients try to kill themselves by slitting their wrists, jumping off a bridge or in front of a car. I’ve seen them assault others, tackle innocent bystanders, hang off an armored truck half-naked and try to dismantle a school bus with their bare hands to get to the kids inside.”
(Due to the serious risk to their careers, all interviewees requested anonymity.)