The Homeless

Hours after mayor’s apology, police order homeless sleeping outside City Hall to move

Sacramento police officers ordered homeless people sleeping outside City Hall to move just hours after Mayor Darrell Steinberg publicly apologized for a separate incident in which campers were removed from the grounds during a recent rain storm.

Steinberg then said in an interview Thursday he doesn’t want homeless people roused from City Hall “in the middle of the night” regardless of the weather.

Officers told about 15 people to leave the City Hall property around 2 a.m. Wednesday, said Vance Chandler, police spokesman. The officers were enforcing a city ordinance that prohibits anyone from being at City Hall from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., Chandler said.

The following night, officers told 25 people to leave, cited three of them for violating the ordinance and arrested one of them, Chandler said.

“The group was extremely hostile toward the officers,” Chandler said.

During Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting, homeless activist David Andre complained to the council about police telling homeless people to leave City Hall in a heavy rainstorm earlier this month.

“As the mayor of this city, I want to apologize,” Steinberg said Tuesday after Andre spoke. “I’m taking the responsibility ... that should not have happened. People should not be asked to leave at 2:30 in the morning or whenever it was, in a rainstorm, period.”

Steinberg doesn’t want people kicked off the property in general, he told the Bee on Thursday.

“I don’t think we should be rousing people in the middle of the night,” Steinberg said. “Rain or no rain. The rain makes it worse. But I’m going to look into it.”

City Manager Howard Chan is also looking into the matter, city spokesman Tim Swanson said.

Officers working overnight are directed to check City Hall and enforce the ordinance when they have time, Chandler said.

“The direction they’re being given is still the same,” Chandler said Thursday.

Dan Aderholt, a homeless rights activist, saw about eight officers waking up homeless people and asking them to move Thursday at around 1:48 a.m., he said. He captured the scene on video and posted it to his Facebook page.

The video shows several officers standing outside City Hall, shining flashlights into tents. A person is seen hauling blankets away on a bicycle and another is shown dragging a tent away from the plaza.

Chandler did not immediately provide details of the citations.

The City of Sacramento is currently in a shelter crisis, which means the city does not have enough shelter beds for the homeless on any given night. Several people routinely sleep outside City Hall because they feel safer than along the riverfront and in other dark areas, Aderholt said.

“It is the safest lit area with police patrol for women and handicapped people who have no protection from the dangerous elements of being homeless,” Aderholt said.

The overhangs also provide cover from rain and wind.

The temperature dropped to 36 degrees early Thursday morning in Sacramento, according to the National Weather Service.

After leaving City Hall early Thursday, the homeless people relocated a block north, Aderholt said.

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Theresa Clift covers Sacramento City Hall. Before joining The Bee in 2018, she worked as a local government reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Daily Press in Virginia and the Wausau Daily Herald in Wisconsin. She grew up in Michigan and graduated from Central Michigan University.