Soapbox

Chasing homeless off the parkway won’t work

A homeless man hangs his clothing and bedding to dry out on a fence along the American River last December. Sacramento County supervisors are to vote Wednesday on a $5 million plan to clean up the parkway.
A homeless man hangs his clothing and bedding to dry out on a fence along the American River last December. Sacramento County supervisors are to vote Wednesday on a $5 million plan to clean up the parkway. Sacramento Bee file

If you have taken a walk recently on the American River Parkway near Discovery Park, you have seen the homeless problem.

In response, Sacramento County supervisors will be voting Wednesday on a $5 million fix – by raising fees, taking the money from emergency reserves or stripping vital programs such as public safety or road maintenance.

 
Opinion

Unfortunately, not even $5 million a year can move homeless people themselves off the parkway. While we can make the homeless move their camps, they will simply move somewhere else along the parkway. The only way to transition them out of homelessness is to provide intensive mental health and social services, as well as housing, but waitlists are enormous. While the county has recently approved money to build more housing and shelters, they haven’t been built yet.

If we chase the homeless out of the downtown sections of the parkway, we will be pushing the problem into areas closer to schools and housing, and even further from the services and shelters they need.

While three sources for the $5 million have been identified, all have problems. One is to divert money the Waste Management Department uses to cover costs that current fees don’t cover. But that would result in more frequent and higher increases in fees for all residents.

The second is to use money already allocated to road repairs and other infrastructure. The third would take money from emergency reserves when Sacramento County already has one of the lowest in the state — barely enough to keep the county afloat for eight days.

I recognize that homeless on the parkway is a problem, but I also recognize that raising fees, taking more money from critically low reserves and raiding money dedicated to other projects are not the answers. We need to wait until more housing is built for the homeless before we start trying to move them off the parkway and further from the resources they need.

Sue Frost represents District 4 on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. She can be contacted at SupervisorFrost@saccounty.net.

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