Tempers boil over as Sacramento sheriff’s deputies evict homeless
The Sacramento Sheriff’s Department has ordered about 70 homeless people living at a vacant lot off Stockton Boulevard in south Sacramento to vacate the property by 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Homeless activists are asking officials to allow the homeless people to stay, to leave the port-a-potties and dumpster, and to install laundry and shower facilities.
Betty “Bubbles” Rios has been staying at the property on and off since 2010, when the San Juan Motel, where she worked, was demolished, along with a trailer she was living in. She was upset to find a notice to vacate taped to her tent Sunday.
“Everybody here is a family,” Rios, 46, said. “We’ve all been together a long time.”
The site at 5700 Stockton Blvd., near the intersection with Fruitridge Road, is just outside the city’s boundaries. The property is owned by the successor agency to the county’s former redevelopment agency, said Kim Nava, county spokeswoman. The county plans to transfer the property to the Sacramento Redevelopment and Housing Agency so the SHRA can build a mixed-use development with affordable housing units and retail, Nava said.
This winter, SHRA installed a fence around the property to prepare to receive bids from firms looking to develop the property, Nava said.
Development would likely not occur for “a couple of years,” though, until the developer is selected and then assembles a financing package, said Angela Jones, SHRA spokeswoman.
Rebecca Thompson, who’s been living at the camp for about three weeks, said people should be able to stay at the property right up until construction begins.
“This is a vacant lot nobody’s using,” said Thompson, 40. “I’ve known most people out here for years. We all try to help each other.”
The SHRA requested the Sheriff’s Department’s assistance to get the property vacated, said Sgt. Tess Deterding, sheriff’s department spokeswoman.
During the last six months, there were 69 calls for service to the encampment, including several for ongoing fights including weapons, which have resulted in injuries, Deterding said.
“That’s astronomical, really, for any location in the county,” Deterding said. “That reflects the issues we’ve been having there.”
The sheriff’s department’s Homeless Outreach Team has been visiting the site since January to try to connect people with organizations that provide housing, mental health, medical and dental treatment, Deterding said.
The Sheriff’s Office hosted a Homeless Outreach Partnership Event, or HOPE, at the property Feb. 13 to provide people with hotel vouchers, bus passes, clothing vouchers, dental kits and vaccines, as well as medical and dental care and enrollment in county benefit programs, Deterding said. The department hosted another HOPE event near 65th Street and Florin Road last weekend and offered transportation to people from the encampment, she said.
“We have gone above and beyond to give resources to people there who are willing to participate,” Deterding said.
Sometimes, though, the resources given are just business cards. When people try to visit the website listed, they never get any help finding housing, said Crystal Sanchez, a homeless activist who has been feeding the people at the camp for months.
“You can’t expect to successfully get these people off of the streets when we have no shelter and no way for them to even attempt to get a job,” Sanchez said in a news release. “Modesto tent city is thriving and doing it. We are the Capitol and a poor example for the rest of the state.”
Modesto government officials in February set up uniform tents underneath a bridge near the Tuolumne River as an organized temporary shelter. Sanchez visited that camp recently, and said it seemed to be running smoothly.
Activists are also asking for officials to allow volunteers to continue to go feed the people at the camp and continue to help residents clean it. Sanchez and other volunteers served up chicken legs and rice Monday, as well as words of support as they prepared for Wednesday.
Sanchez estimates 145 people are living at the site — about double the number the Sheriff’s department estimates.
The camp’s residents last week started a program for self-governance, elected Rios to be in charge, and agreed on a list of rules, Rios said. The rules include no fighting, dogs that bite must be on leashes, and everyone staying at the camp must help keep it clean, Rios said.
Rios said the tight-knit nature of the encampment makes homeless single women feel safer.
“There’s no one to protect us at night time,” Rios said. “We like staying in a group here because we feel safer in a group than on our own.”
After getting the notice, Rios called many shelters in the area and they were all full, Rios said. The closest shelter she could find with an available bed was in Roseville — too far for her to travel, she said.
The homeless shelters in Sacramento are typically full on any given night. City officials have funding for several new large shelters, but the first, at Capitol Park Hotel downtown, will not be open until July at the earliest.