Sacramento Homeless Union President Crystal Sanchez and Sacramento Poor People’s Campaign member Faye Kennedy’s most concerning issue for the unhoused played out last week on Alhambra and W Street in Oak Park.
On Jan. 5, warnings to vacate the area were handed to homeless individuals of an encampment set up by the overpass. About 15 people camped out in the location. Two days later, the encampment was clearly shown torn down by city workers.
“The Sacramento Poor People’s Campaign (Sac PPC) and the Sacramento Home Union (SHU) are saddened and outraged by the continued sweeps and displacement of our unhoused neighbors at the various homeless encampments throughout Sacramento in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kennedy stated. “On Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, the unhoused residents living near the Alhambra Boulevard and X Street corridor were informed by the Sacramento Police Department that they must vacate (see the attached documentation). The unhoused residents were offered a possible seven-day hotel voucher, but they were not allowed to take their personal belongings (tents, sleeping bags, and blankets) without any guarantees of permanent housing/shelter.”
Kennedy and Sanchez have told the local media several times that the continued sweeps and displacement of unhoused neighbors at the various homeless encampments throughout Sacramento in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is not the answer to Sacramento’s systemic problem.
The real immediate need is housing, short term and long-term strategies. The need must also be “solution-based,” centered on “treating our unhoused neighbors with dignity and respect,” Kennedy said.
Last week, the City Council officially declared reducing homelessness a top priority and launched the process for developing a city-wide master plan for siting, financing, and operating sheltering solutions to bring thousands of people indoors.
The Council unanimously approved restarting the issuance of a $100-million bond to build affordable housing and permanent supportive housing in the city.
The city has committed to holding a series of workshops and community outreach over the next several months leading to an up-or-down vote in June on the resulting master plan.
In the interim, the encampment sweeps could continue, violating and ordinance Sacramento Homeless Union won last summer.
On July 17, 2020, the Superior Court of Sacramento County passed a court ruling that prohibits sweeps of homeless encampments on public property during the pandemic.
The clearing of encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers, Kennedy and Sanchez said. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.
Also of importance to the Sacramento Poor People’s Campaign and the Sacramento Homeless Union is the status of the older generations of the unhoused in Sacramento.
In 2019, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reported that unhoused people over the age of 55 consists of 31% of the country’s homeless population.
More than 1,000 people over the age of 55 are experiencing homelessness in Sacramento County. Overall, nearly 40% of the unhoused in Sacramento County are Black.
“We still have seniors, chronic conditions, age, and everyone still living in these camps. We are not receiving any resources on the ground,” Sanchez said. “People sleeping outside or in places not meant for human habitation — may be at risk for infection when there is community spread of COVID-19. Some people may be at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to older age or certain underlying medical conditions, such as chronic lung disease or serious heart conditions.”
For more information on the well-being of the unhoused, contact Faye Wilson Kennedy, Sacramento Poor People’s Campaign at SacPPC2019@gmail.com or Crystal Sanchez at Sacramento.firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer