Home>Articles>Sacramento Business Group Proposes ‘Homelessness Shelter and Enforcement’ Initiative

Sacramento homeless camp under "Downtown" sign. (Photo: Katy Grimes for California Globe)

Sacramento Business Group Proposes ‘Homelessness Shelter and Enforcement’ Initiative

Martin v. Boise does not establish a constitutional right to occupy public property indefinitely

By Katy Grimes, February 25, 2022 9:09 am

A City of Sacramento Poll recently found 71% say homelessness is the top issue facing the city. 57% of those polled say they have little to no confidence that the City can fix the problem. More than 60% think the problem can be solved with the right leadership and policies.

93% of Sacramento County residents polled say homelessness is nearly universally seen as a “very serious” problem, and think the County is on the wrong track in dealing with it.

That is a good start.

The Globe has written extensively about Sacramento’s perpetually growing homeless population for several years, despite Mayor Steinberg spending hundreds of millions of dollars on it. What was 5,000 homeless on Sacramento streets in 2020 has grown to more than 11,000, that we know of. The homeless count is taking place right now.

Homeless camp, F St. and 30th, Sacramento. (Photo: Katy Grimes for California Globe)

Region Business, a trade association for architects, contractors, engineers, banks, restaurants, law firms, developers, etc…, formed Sacramentans for Safe and Clean Streets and Parks, and co-drafted a ballot measure to address the rampant homelessness in the city, and to enforce local illegal camping laws, after years of ineffective leadership.

The ballot measure would give Sacramento citizens the ability to sue the City to force them to clean-up encampments that pose a nuisance to the surrounding community. It also requires the City to establish areas, adequate to accommodate 75% of the homeless population, where individuals can be moved.

Josh Wood, co-founder and CEO of Region Builders, spoke to the Globe about the importance to the entire community of the ballot measure. “We believe we are doing the maximum allowed under the ‘Boise’ case, and will force accountability of the city the same way they hold private property owners accountable.”

There is also legal recourse for reimbursement for legal fees associated with that effort, should it be required.

One member of the committee shared that the initiative is not without acknowledgement of the need for housing in the city and county. But it acknowledges that efforts to provide adequate housing will take years and in the meantime establishing a “state of emergency” of sorts is necessary to properly deal with this interim disaster that has occurred.

Demonstrating the ineffectiveness of the City, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg floated an alarming idea at his State of the City address this week: with so many state workers continuing to work remotely long-term, he’d like to utilize empty state offices for housing the city’s homeless.

And that is the primary problem with how Mayor Steinberg has addressed homelessness: as if it’s a housing problem, rather than a mental health and drug addiction problem. And, Steinberg has allowed homeless advocates to bully him.

The Mayor and City Council have largely hidden behind the Martin v. Boise case, in which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider invalidation of ordinances completely banning sleeping and camping in Public. But Martin v. Boise did not render local officials impotent to deal with homelessness, as they would have you believe.

The crux of the issue is that Martin v. Boise will not apply in any situation where there is not complete prohibition on camping in any public place.

Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute, explains the fallacies of the Ninth Circuit ruling in, “San Francisco, Hostage to the Homeless:”

“Boise v. Martin was a patent case of judicial activism in the pursuit of a favored policy agenda. The decision discounted facts that stood in the way of its desired conclusion. But the ruling’s most serious problem was the declaration that homelessness is an involuntary condition that the sufferer has no capacity to control or change. Numerous personal decisions go into being homeless, such as not moving to a cheaper housing market, refusing offered services, or breaking ties with friends or family members who might be able to provide accommodation. The concept of agency is already under assault in the legal academy; should more courts pick up on this trend, much of the criminal law would have to be discarded. A dissenting Ninth Circuit judge in a subsequent appeal of the case noted that if cities cannot ban sleeping in public, because sleeping is an inevitable concomitant of being human, they also cannot ban defecating in public. The majority chose not to respond to this logical inference.”

A key takeaway of the proposed Sacramento initiative is the illegal camping enforcement component. Here’s how the initiative addresses this:

“The streets and public areas within the city should be readily accessible and available to residents and the public at large. The use of these areas for camping purposes or storage of personal property interferes with the rights of others to use the areas for which they were intended. Such activity can constitute a public health and safety hazard which adversely impacts neighborhoods and commercial areas. Camping on private property without the consent of the owner, proper sanitary measures and for other than a minimal duration adversely affects private property rights as well as public health, safety, and welfare of the city. The purpose of this chapter is to maintain streets, parks and other public and private areas within the city in a clean, sanitary and accessible condition and to adequately protect the health, safety and public welfare of the community, while recognizing that, subject to reasonable conditions, camping and camp facilities associated with special events can be beneficial to the cultural and educational climate in the city. Nothing in this chapter is intended to interfere with otherwise lawful and ordinary uses of public or private property.”

“Large unauthorized encampments on public and private property create additional and more dangerous public health and safety concerns and threaten the livability, security and economic vitality of the city and can never be tolerated.”

“The city must enforce these laws while providing immediate emergency shelter and emergency camping spaces as an alternative to unauthorized camping.”

As for the Martin v. Boise restrictions, in a City of Oakland lawsuit brought by homeless advocates trying to block the city from evicting a homeless camp on city property, a federal judge ruled, “Martin does not establish a constitutional right to occupy public property indefinitely,” the East Bay Express reported.

With enough signatures, the Sacramento initiative will appear on the November 2022 ballot.

Here is part of the proposed initiative:

The people of the City of Sacramento do ordain as follows:
SECTION 1. STATEMENT OF FINDINGS AND DECLARATION OF PURPOSE
A. The most important issue facing our City is the massive increase in the number of people
living on our public streets and sidewalks, in abandoned vehicles, or in other public spaces,
which has occurred in just the last few years.
B. Numerous homeless encampments, many with dozens of people living in tents and other
make-shift shelters, are both a public health and public safety crisis affecting the homeless
individuals living in such encampments and all City residents.
C. In recent years, the public health crisis has included the spread of communicable and
dangerous disease caused by the contamination of our waterways and storm water systems, due
to the lack of basic sanitation.
D. The public safety crisis includes increases in retail and property theft, burglary, property
damage, and other drug-related crimes. In addition, these encampments have caused significant
damage to public and private property, including numerous and dangerous fires.
E. All of this has negatively impacted the livability, security, and economic vitality of the
city and of our neighborhoods. In some parts of the city, small businesses have been forced to
close because the city does not enforce its anti-camping ordinance. In other parts of the city,
citizens are unable to use public parks, community centers, and other public property. At times,
citizens have been warned to stay out of our rivers due to contamination. Garbage and hazardous
waste are piling up all over the City.
F. The City has spent tens of millions of dollars without any appreciable effect. Instead of
addressing the crisis as an emergent condition, the city has focused most of its efforts on long-
term costly and complicated housing solutions. At best, these long-term solutions are years
away. More importantly, the city has never explained why it has chosen NOT to enforce its own
laws that prohibit camping on public property.

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12 thoughts on “Sacramento Business Group Proposes ‘Homelessness Shelter and Enforcement’ Initiative

  1. SO HAPPY to see this! I’d say “break a leg Sacramento” in qualifying and passing this initiative, but it looks like from the City’s own poll that you all are in pretty good shape already. (knock wood)

    What is allowed in Boise v. Martin has actually been known for some time but our local and state ‘leadership;’ i.e. politicians, bureaucrats, many non-profits, etc. (a.k.a. The Homeless Industrial Complex) have ignored it, tried to confuse about it, or otherwise hidden it. Gee, I wonder why? The option was finally successfully used several years ago to clean up the Santa Ana river bed, which had grown over time into an horrendous problem near Anaheim Stadium, and return it to its original purpose of family recreation trails. It was positively UNCANNY at the time that the homeless/vagrants just happened to know to set up camp on the jurisdictional line. Thus much time was wasted as Orange County politicians pointed their fingers at L.A. County politicians and L.A. pointed back at O.C., etc.

    Eventually because of the public pressure some politicians took charge and began the process. After a legal judgment the sorting of homeless/vagrants and cleanup began. Because a place to go had been planned, authorities were able to provide that option. Refusal to take an option meant homeless/vagrants needed to move along or risk arrest. A lot of guns and drugs were found in those tons of trash that were removed, by the way!
    Best of luck, break a leg, whatever works, Sacramento. Many of us will be watching this, I know.

  2. only way to defeat this is drug programs coupled with job skill training/opportunities and using enforcement they attend.

    otherwise it will be another issue that never gets solved with every candidate saying they have a plan or solution but never really live up to it.

    1. Yes, and if we can get rid of Prop 47 (Asm Kiley’s bill to do that apparently has momentum, fingers crossed) we can bring back the diversion programs (rehab or jail, pick one) that reportedly worked very well to address addictions before the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing Prop 47 was passed. It’s a win-win. For them and for us. Many offenders who are doing well now report that their lives were saved by these programs, as they look with horror at the city streets and what might have become of them without the diversion programs.

    2. Also wonderful places such as L.A. Union Rescue Mission (fraternal twin of Sacramento’s Union Gospel Mission) offer rehab programs and job training, plus life skills and finances training, etc. Want to get on the road to fixing this, politicians? Consult with them; they are experts. Their model should be followed by all who actually want to get somewhere in solving this and who actually want to save and transform lives.

  3. I have run through so many emotions on this – shock, anger, sadness, blame, disgust… even indifference. I hate hearing about these kinds of “initiatives.” We aren’t talking about an infestation of rats, we’re talking about people. Actual people, Americans, free people in this, our beautiful free country. These Americans, these people are living in squalor and filth with no shelter from the weather, no food to eat, no place to go to the bathroom or shower. It has been in the twenties overnight this past week, and these folks have been out in tents and makeshift “encampments” literally freezing while the rest of the neighborhood tucks in for a good night’s sleep in their warm beds. And you think that displacing then further still will… solve… something? Rehab or jail? This is America. What is wrong with you? Have any of you ever spent even one day under the oppressive weight of homelessness? I hope not, and I do not wish it on even the most callous of people because it is truly awful. No one should ever have to live with that burden, absolutely no one. Have any of you ever asked any of the people in these “camps” that you find so unsightly if they need anything?
    Have you ever offered to help them with whatever they need help with in that moment? That would be a common sense, low budget, way of addressing the “emergent condition” in real time, one that provides not only immediate, meaningful and impactful results but one that would serve to unify as opposed to divide the community as well. Depriving people of the only stability of security they have been able to find, robbing them of their freedom to make their own choices, is reprehensible. And it’s insulting. To what end, to hold the city accountable or some nonsense? For shame. Have some respect for your fellow man, for your neighbors. Have some compassion. It doesn’t take much – a car accident, a layoff, whatever it may be – and you could be right there with them, STRUGGLING, every single day. Be thankful, not hateful. Be helpful, not harmful.
    Shame on you.

    1. I have volunteered with our local homeless outreach ministry for years and almost every client we assist has drug addiction, mental health issues, or both. During the last year I can recall only one family who was homeless simply due to sudden job loss making it impossible for them to keep their home…for these people, the programs that exist for temporary emergency housing, job training, mediCal, and food stamps got them through this period until they could once again find work and live on their own. So until you’ve been literally in the trenches talking with, hugging, and encouraging our homeless population please don’t be so quick to judge. In many areas of CA the government spends hundreds of thousands every year per documented homeless person and yet the problem only increases because the root causes are NOT addresses.

    2. I have volunteered with our local homeless outreach ministry for years and almost every client we assist has drug addiction, mental health issues, or both. During the last year I can recall only one family who was homeless simply due to sudden job loss making it impossible for them to keep their home…for these people, the programs that exist for temporary emergency housing, job training, mediCal, and food stamps got them through this period until they could once again find work and live on their own. So until you’ve been literally in the trenches talking with, hugging, and encouraging our homeless population please don’t be so quick to judge. In many areas of CA the government spends hundreds of thousands every year per documented homeless person and yet the problem only increases because the root causes of addiction and mental health are NOT addressed.

  4. Rehab or Jail? Well the problem there is Rehab only works for people that need rehab so the next option you propose is jail and jail is for criminals. That being said you think it’s OK to lock someone up because they fell on hard times or maybe they had landlord that wouldn’t fix a health problem and instead evicted them without returning their deposit or would it be better to force them into rehab because obviously they have a drug problem because they’re living on the street. Right? Presumptuous, pretentious, ignorant I’d say retarded but that’s putting retards down are all words that accurately describe a person that harbors those beliefs. Jail or Rehab is what you have to offer? Maybe a blanket , a warm meal, or if you have the ability to offer them a job. It’s easy for you to pass judgment because its never been you but anything can happen and it might just happen to you

  5. OMG, I’m homeless and never thought in a million years it would happen to me. I was taken down by an evil narcassistic violent bf. No sooner did I let him move in with me I tried to get him out, within the first week! I’d never been through anything like that before and I had $40k in bank for emergencies and well, now I’m homeless. It’s a quicksand I can’t escape from. And no, I’m not going to call my molester freak brother or pedifile father for help. I feel like I’ve been given a life sentence and I’m not a criminal. Serial murders have it better than homeless, meals, showers, warm bed, safety for the most part. I’m too ashamed to contact old bosses or friends because I look like a different person now. I read these horrible anti-homeless messages and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of them end up in the same situation due to karma. Don’t belittle or harm those that are suffering or it will happen to you. It’s pure bondage.

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