SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento County Health Officer has ordered homeless people vacate the perimeter of a city-owned lot at North B and Ahern streets because of a rat infestation.
City officials responded to a complaint and coordinated with the county health office to erect a fence around an existing fence on the property and campers were threatened with arrest if they did not move.
A sign warned of the hazards of diseases transmitted by a growing population of rats.
The area has been a focal point for hundreds of homeless campers who have access to nearby services like The Salvation Army and Loaves and Fishes.
Some of the homeless in the area say trash and food left in the area attracts the rodents.
Across the street at the Quinn Cottages transitional housing complex, a pest control company removed 36 dead rats caught in traps. Pest control was called after residents had complained of strange odors.
"We picked up 36 dead rats off our property alone," said Quinn Cottages resident Reid Riddle.
Some homeless people felt the health order was an excuse to evict them from the area.
"I think it's a bunch of baloney because we've been moving back and forth, back and forth, back and forth for a while and people are tired of it," said homeless caper Sapphire Patton.
She had a police issued eviction notice on her tent along with a dozen others down the street from the quarantined lot.
City officials said that was not the primary motivation.
"Quite simply, it's a public safety issue," said city spokesperson Tim Swanson.
Evictions from the lot were made in May but campers eventually returned.
The health order and new fencing may make it easier to take care of the rodent problem at the expense of homeless campers the measures were meant to help.