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    Volunteers Dale Jones, left, and Niki Jones set up the last of 15 temporary tents Wednesday at the Safe Ground Stake Down encampment at 12th and C streets. The weeklong event is intended to raise awareness of the needs of homeless people.

Sacramento homeless fair marks a quiet first night

Published: Thursday, May. 2, 2013 - 5:29 pm
Last Modified: Friday, May. 3, 2013 - 12:00 am

On the sidewalk in front of the lot at 12th and C streets where the Safe Ground Stake Down homeless fair is taking place, program participants from WIND Youth Services for formerly homeless teens had chalked a series of inspirational messages: "Hugs. Strength. Unity. Fight for the People."

Organizers said the first full day of activities at Stake Down - a weeklong event that combines a temporary 15-tent encampment for the homeless with arts-and-crafts demonstrations and educational workshops - was quiet.

"It's been very smooth," said Stephen Watters, executive director of Safe Ground, the nonprofit that advocates for a safe temporary shelter community for Sacramento's estimated 1,000 homeless people.

"There have been no incidents, which is what the city's worried about, of course."

Malcolm Johnson, the director of a small transitional housing nonprofit, spent Wednesday night in the 120-square-foot cabin that Safe Ground promotes as the prototype for the cabins in its communities. It was his job, he said, to provide overnight security for Stake Down campers.

"I gave them the laws," he said. "I had them sit in a group, and I told them, 'This is about you guys. If you want it to work, you have to do it yourselves. You have to prove that you can coexist and have other people be comfortable with you.'

"And it's been peaceful."

In one shady corner of the lot, Sacramento ceramic artist Gary Dinnen instructed a dozen people on how to mold clay into small figures.

"What are they doing?" asked longtime Sacramento homeless advocate John Kraintz, 59.

"Sculpting," replied a Safe Ground volunteer named Jim MacFarland.

In another corner of the small, dusty lot, a homeless man named Michael Rivera sat in the shade eating a ham sandwich.

"I'm living camped out on the river," said Rivera, 48, who said that he'd roamed from Phoenix to Spokane, Wash., since his release from incarceration in Nevada four years ago. He has been in Sacramento for two months.

"I'm here for something to eat, just for the afternoon. The hospitality is nice."

Teach-ins on immigration and civil rights are planned on Friday afternoon, as well as a poetry reading. Weekend activities include a silk-screening workshop, yoga, a legal workshop and an origami class.

Call The Bee's Anita Creamer, (916) 321-1136.

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