The city of Sacramento will soon hire its first employees dedicated solely to picking up trash at homeless encampments.
The City Council approved Tuesday spending $400,000 to fund the new trash collection crew, as well as several new pieces of trash disposal equipment, including a Gator-style utility vehicle to clean up human waste, a city staff report said.
The crews will dispose of trash that police and organizations collect citywide as well as trash the Downtown Street Teams collect downtown and in the River District, said Jerome Council, a city public works official.
The Downtown Street Teams, composed of volunteers who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, are currently cleaning up outside the city’s homeless shelter on Railroad Drive in North Sacramento, said Emily Halcon, coordinator of the city’s homeless services. Two more teams will launch this winter using state funds received by the city, she said.
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Councilman Larry Carr said he wanted the teams to pick up trash in all areas of the city, causing him to abstain from the vote, Carr said. The motion passed 6-0 Tuesday, with Councilman Eric Guerra absent.
“If we’re going to clean up one place, we should clean up everywhere in the city, not just downtown and the River District,” Carr said. “We put the priorities on these two areas to the detriment of other areas of the city.”
More than 200 homeless people were recently camping outside Providence Place Apartments in South Sacramento, for example, Carr said.
More funding would be needed to expand the teams citywide, Halcon said.
Steinberg said the Tuesday’s action was “very significant.”
“It is not an all or nothing approach here,” Steinberg said. “It’s not just help the people on the streets, but ignore the impact of homelessness. There are times when enforcement is, in fact, appropriate and certainly cleanup and addressing the impact of homelessness on the neighbors and on the businesses is absolutely essential.”
Steinberg said he plans to bring a “larger funding strategy and larger siting strategy” for the city to open more low-barrier triage shelters similar to the one on Railroad Drive, which has 200 beds and is set to close at year’s end.