Sacramento City Council votes to ban camping along levees

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The Sacramento City Council voted Tuesday to ban camping in areas near critical infrastructure, with many homeless people living along the Sacramento and American rivers.

But during the City Council meeting Tuesday afternoon many spoke against the idea.

“This isn’t about us not agreeing with the infrastructure thing because we do agree with that. It’s the fact that we don’t have anywhere for the people to go,” said Crystal Sanchez, the president of the Sacramento Homeless Union.

Even before the meeting started, dozens of homeless and advocacy groups came to City Hall to say the idea will not work.

“If you put this ban into effect, all these people are going to be brought up from the rivers, put back in front of the businesses, back in front of the neighborhoods and the police are going to sweep them every 72 hours,” Sanchez told FOX40. “How is anybody going to get anywhere?”

The city proposal cited more than a thousand wildfires started in that area from May through October 2019.

It also sourced concerns from the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which is worried about encampments that have dug into levees, leading to significant damage during floods.

“The only holes that I ever seen dig is footsteps like a staircase going up,” said Dan Aderholt, the founder of the American River Homeless Crew.

The proposal says the ban would not violate the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision on Martin v. the City of Boise because of a footnote in that decision that says particular locations can ban camping.

Meanwhile, Sacramento City Council members FOX40 spoke with said they were working to increase shelter space.

“We have to not look at this myopically,” said City Councilman Eric Guerra. “It’s a combined effort to find housing solutions and services but at the same time ensuring that we’re protecting critical safety for those in our city.”

Homeless say they ‘are only trying to survive’

For more than two decades, 35-year-old Michelle Perry has been homeless.

With a dog and a new litter of puppies, Perry calls a North Sacramento encampment next to the American River home.

Perry said she suffers from epileptic seizures, adding that if she was homeless somewhere else, paramedics would not be able to find her when she needs them.

“We’re only trying to survive,” she told FOX40.

Soon, she and others along the river will have to move. The evictions will come after 30 days as the city implements the new ordinance, which bans homeless camps within 25 feet of levees along rivers in the city.

Jon Matthews is a transient who lives nearby and like many others, he prefers to not be in a shelter. He said he likes the privacy and the family atmosphere the river offers.

Matthews said once some are kicked out, others will take their place.

“And other people are going to come in and fill this place up again,” he said. “And this is a vicious circle going around and around in circles.”

But others said they are ready to take a stand.

“I won’t go nowhere until they come and tell us, ‘You go to jail or you move.’ I might go to jail,” said John Paul Fell.

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