Until Permanent Housing is Found, Homeless Advocacy Groups Say “Safeground” Campsites are Needed

SACRAMENTO – An empty lot at 12th and C streets is an example of what one solution to the homeless crisis in the Sacramento area could look like.

It’s the site of a “safeground” event held Friday that’s meant to highlight the plight of the homeless and look for solutions.

Some argue that the homeless would be less visible if sites like these were more common.

There isn’t a more visible example of the homeless problem than what you can see just north of Downtown Sacramento. This generates plenty of 3-1-1 calls to the city complaining about human feces, hypodermic needles, trash and rat infestations.

Organized by homeless advocacy groups, “safeground” was named after previous efforts to provide locations where homeless camps can be set up.

“No more than about 50 people, self-governed, elected leaders, bring the services there,” explained Kathleen Williams, Sac Homeless Organizing Committee.

But some have argued that such camps encourage people to stay homeless.

Susan and Sam Exstein don’t agree.

“It’s way harder, I’d rather have a home,” Susan said with a chuckle.

The Exsteins came to the event from Yuba City where they became homeless after losing their jobs.

“Not because we did drugs or molested children like they say that we do,” Sam said.

But even other homeless people admit there is illegal drug use and mental illness in the homeless population.

Some say outreach to get them help often hasn’t worked.

“They really don’t even come out, we don’t ever see them, they say they do but they don’t,” said Brian Brown, Homeless Union.

All the more reason to set up camps where services providers can find them.

After the impromptu camp on Stockton Boulevard was cleared out because of health and crime issues, homeless tents became more visible over a wider area.

“They’re in the neighborhood, they’re at the cemetery, they’re at the creek,” said Betty Rios. “There’s nowhere for them to be.

Homeless advocacy groups say it’s another reason “safeground” type camps that offer water, garbage service and sanitation is a better way to go.

“If you do that then, the $40 million Mayor Steinberg is plotting for temporary barrack-like shelters can be leveraged and it can go into housing,” Kathleen Williams said.

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