Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton: Small businesses bear brunt of Sacramento's homeless

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 - 7:45 pm

Ihear the same remark all over Sacramento whenever the issue of homelessness comes up.

"Well, those people have to go somewhere."

What a cop-out.

It's easy to sound sympathetically ignorant when the problem is not on your front stoop. But when it is, there isn't much Sacramento "leaders" will do for you.

I'm talking about a forgotten constituency with few friends in the state Capitol: small-business owners.

Given that Sacramento has a depressed tax base, you would think this constituency would be valued because local taxes bankroll city services.

Instead, most members of the Sacramento City Council are pushing the idea of a half-cent sales tax increase to pump up services – a prime example of how priorities in Sacramento are completely out of balance.

I'm going to bring you the stories of businesses blighted by crime and vagrancy downtown, in the River District, North Sacramento and beyond.

Today, we start with the unfortunates trying to run businesses near Loaves & Fishes, Sacramento's largest homeless charity.

Business owners there say crime – including stabbings, assault and vandalism – is common on North C Street. On Aug. 8, Michael Garduno, president of XRay Engineering, spotted a woman scrawling graffiti across the street and began photographing her.

According to Garduno, when the woman spotted him, she crossed the street and tried to scrawl on him with her chalk. "She marked up my face and said (expletive) you!" Garduno said. "She said she would have sex with me for $25."

Garduno said police took his information and told him he would hear from the District Attorney's Office.

He's still waiting. Garduno also wrote a note to Councilman Steve Cohn, who replied with many words that said nothing.

Jo Gerlinger, owner of Gerlinger Steel and Supply Co., said her business is routinely burglarized and its metal is stolen by scavengers who then take it to be recycled. "We have work crews that come in at 2 a.m. and it's not safe for them," Gerlinger said.

Randall Heller, who has worked at Pacific Flooring Supply since the early 1970s, said: "When Loaves & Fishes first opened is when we started having serious issues."

Many don't want to hear this or ignore it, but Loaves & Fishes is a magnet for people causing great harm in Sacramento.

The charity has grown so large that it's a staging ground for mayhem on North C Street, on the American River Parkway and elsewhere.

Loaves & Fishes has no end of supporters, but who supports the people being harmed by its operation?

When I ask the question, I get the same cop-out: "Those people have to go somewhere."

We've reached a tipping point in Sacramento. It's a lost city when you enable those causing harm and ignore those being harmed.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton, news columnist

Marcos Breton

Hello, my name is Marcos Breton and I'm the news columnist with The Sacramento Bee. What's a columnist supposed to do? I'm supposed to make you think, make you laugh, make you mad or make you see an issue in a different way. I'm supposed to connect the dots on issues, people and relationships that cause things to happen or prevent them from happening in our region. I also write a weekly baseball column during the baseball season. I am a voter in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, I have voted for Barry Bonds - twice. I am a native of Northern California. I am the son of Mexican immigrants. I've been at The Bee for more than 20 years, and I love Sacramento.

Phone: 916-321-1096
Twitter: @MarcosBreton

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