City of Sacramento officials say they will not rescind a no-camping ordinance that has sparked a month-long protest and arrests outside city hall. Several city council members, who are part of a new homeless task force, and other city officials held a press conference saying recent outreach efforts have gotten thousands of homeless people off the street.
The arrests of homeless demonstrators aren’t a surprise to anyone camping here.
They are given copies of the ordinance, warned numerous times and offered places at shelters before police lead them off to jail, some multiple times.
They say they are being harassed and shouldn't be arrested for being poor and homeless. City council members say they want to give protesters a lot of lee way.
"...to have their protest, to say their peace, to make their point, but we cannot run a city where people don’t respect the law," said Sacramento council member Steve Hansen, a downtown resident.
City officials say they now have a comprehensive homeless program that has gotten over 3,400 people into transitional or permanent housing and access to mental health care. They say they are working toward creating hundreds of permanent housing units for address the homeless problem.
It’s clear that the people outside city hall aren’t here to find a place to stay. They admittedly are here to protest and represent those who aren’t offered or cannot find shelter.
“I find it kind of offensive that they’re trying to offer the protesters space, but what about the other people sleeping on the streets? There are thousands of people without shelter," said James Faygo Clark, protest organizer.
The city has formed a task force to explore solutions that are successful elsewhere.
“This task force [will] look at every option available whether it be in the city, the region of Sac, [or] even outside our wonderful city," said Sacramento Vice-mayor Rick Jennings.
Protesters are preparing a legal challenge to the camping ordinance saying it is unlawfully targeting the poor and homeless. But the city says the ordinance is a health and safety issue that is part of a comprehensive solution.
“We want to solve this problem, but we can’t allow people to camp in alleys, camp on the sides of houses, urinate and dedicate where ever they want to. We have to have a solution that protects our communities while solving the problem," said Hansen.
Other community members and agencies will be invited to join the task force. Protesters say they want a seat at the table too.
‘Without the voice of the people who are going through it, the task force isn’t able to have as much impact," said Faygo Clark.
The city says it will continue to enforce the camping ordinance, but or now the protesters remain.