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Transients camping on a downtown Sacramento resident’s property (Ramona Russell for California Globe)
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Violent, Drug-addicted Transients from Out of Town Make Up the Majority of Homeless

Police, firefighters and hospital staff say easy access to drugs, no consequences and lucrative panhandling is what attracts transients to California

By Ramona Russell, October 25, 2019 9:39 am

“I’ve seen them assault others, tackle innocent bystanders, hang off an armored truck half-naked and try to dismantle a school bus with their bare hands to get to the kids inside.”

“Todd,” a physical rehab therapist with a major medical center in Sacramento says all of their hospital security has been diverted to the emergency room because ninety percent of transients are violent when they come in. “One of our security guards had his leg broken, a physical therapist was punched in the head repeatedly and a nurse was hit in the face resulting in a broken nose. Some of the staff have gotten bed bugs and MRSA from transient patients and are terrified to come to work. My coworkers break down crying on a regular basis from how overwhelming the issues are.”

According to Todd almost one hundred percent of the transients are meth addicts, the majority being males. “Some come into the hospital for injuries from an assault and about half make up chest pain complaints because they know it’s a one or two-night stay, requiring x-rays and lab work. In the past few years, the ER wait time has gone from one to six hours, and the hospital is at capacity seventy-five percent of the time with patients in gurneys lining the hallways. Sixty to seventy percent of our beds our taken by transients who are long-term residents at a cost of $8,000 per night, per person. We had one transient here for 400 days and another for two years.”

Transient fire near the Sacramento Zoo

Todd explains that transients have government funds averaging from $1,000 – $4,000 a month, and that he sees only one person a year who is actually from Sacramento and has never seen a homeless family. “They tell me they come here for easy access to drugs and no consequences. They know if they happen to get arrested, they’ll be out soon. And they also say they can get the most money from panhandling in California. One transient actually told me how stupid I was for working so hard, because of how easy it is to get free money.”

Todd, who was urinated on by a transient because he didn’t want to participate in a physical rehab session, says he got into this line of work to help people and wants to be the best part of the worst time in their lives. “We want to make people better, but they don’t want to get better or are incapable from their drug addiction and can no longer care for themselves. Less than ten percent will actually go into a shelter; the majority want to stay on the street, which is why housing is not the answer.”

“Kyle,” a firefighter paramedic with the Sacramento Fire Department, says there is a lot of pride to be with the department, which has a rich history and set of traditions dating back to 1872 when it became the first paid professional department west of the Mississippi. “We are one of the busiest and lowest paid, and now firefighters are leaving for other cities because the amount of transient calls is lowering morale. In one forty-eight-hour shift, forty percent of the calls will be transient-related.”

“One small grass fire on the American River Parkway will take three engines for a few hours, leaving neighborhoods without fire units. The parkway is completely destroyed with needles and feces at every campsite.” Kyle adds, “There are daily calls for violence and sexual assault in the transient community, and it’s very sad to see women who are raped and strung out on drugs, not file a report because their lives are being threatened.”

Kyle, who has also never seen a homeless family, says ninety percent of the transients they come in contact with are drug addicts, with the majority being males who are on meth and refuse all services offered. “We are seeing a lot of overdoses and almost one hundred percent of transients are not from Sacramento. They come to the Greyhound bus station, and call 911 to get into the system, citing a stomachache or a refill for pills as the reason and we have to take them. Once they’re at the hospital, if they don’t like the answer they get from the doctor, who is likely refusing to give them opioids, they request to go to another hospital which is by ambulance and ties us up for hours.”

Kyle, who became a firefighter because he truly enjoys helping people, said one of the worst calls he was on was where a dog was left in a transient’s car in the heat, and with his leash on he tried to jump out of the car and hung himself.

“Brad,” a former officer with the Sacramento Police Department, has never interacted with a transient on the street who wasn’t a drug addict and didn’t have a rap sheet averaging dozens of arrests for crimes such as burglary and assault with a deadly weapon. “It’s rare to see someone on the street whose mental illness isn’t drug-induced. I’ve seen multiple transients try to kill themselves by slitting their wrists, jumping off a bridge or in front of a car. I’ve seen them assault others, tackle innocent bystanders, hang off an armored truck half-naked and try to dismantle a school bus with their bare hands to get to the kids inside.”

Transients camping behind homes in Curtis Park, Sacramento. (Ramona Russell for California Globe)

Brad, who has been punched in the face twice by transients, says, “There is a segment of society that can no longer control themselves and are not working on their problems. Does the average person pass out in public or on someone’s lawn from using illegal drugs, steal your package or bike, then assault you? No, but there has been a shift where this is considered the new normal, and the people getting abused are the ones paying taxes and trying to raise their kids while stepping over human feces and dirty needles.”

“Law enforcement, who wants nothing more than to fix the problem, no longer has the tools,” explains Brad. “We used to be able to remove criminals from the neighborhood, but politics has completely tied our hands. Cops wait around to be able to do something, then are hated by the public because they can’t. I could no longer say I was doing the right or moral thing. I was walking away from people doing drugs and people who would eventually harm themselves or others. When officers would call me on how to handle an incident, I had to tell them we couldn’t do anything, which means now a whole generation of cops are being taught to walk away and to shove the problems under the rug.”

Brad, who says police officers contract Tuberculosis every year from transients, believes most people are biased which prevents them from seeing what is really going on. “The majority of the homeless are not people who fell on hard times through no fault of their own; the ones that did are accepting services and getting help. And the public doesn’t care when they see the homeless issue until it’s on their front lawn or affecting their children. It takes something so grotesque as a transient stabbing someone to realize there’s a problem, but then the memory fades and they’re on to something else.”

(Due to the serious risk to their careers, all interviewees requested anonymity.)

Ramona Russell

Ramona Russell is a writer, advocate and public relations and social media strategist, and the creator of Save Sac, an advocacy group whose focus is the public health and safety for the city of Sacramento, California.
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37 thoughts on “Violent, Drug-addicted Transients from Out of Town Make Up the Majority of Homeless

  1. I am sorry the people you chose have never looked at the stats for Ca, or even in Sacramento regarding homeless fellow humans and where they come from. You might want to talk to Mike Summers who runs the Crisis Intervention Training for officers in Yolo, Sac, Placer and Thema counties. You will have a different view. Why not take on Big Pharma for the opioed epidemic, look at no proper services for those suffering Mental Illness. And look at the Ca. DEPT OF Education on stats of homeless children. Which in fact is only those reported.

    We are all concerned so lets build some detox, get advocates and social services on the streets. Yes there are folks on the street, disabled that collect social security at 900 a month. So where can they live and still eat. If they are seeing more than that amoint are they Veterns we are pushing to the street when they come home mentally or physically wounded. Lets get some other people on the streets to have other views and eho actually can help these folks through constant positive solution driven solutions.

  2. This is not real journalism. Please provide factual information in the future instead of personal anecdotes from anonymous people.

    1. I guess you think that the people that deal with these meth addicts on a daily basis are full of shit? Lmao… I see that you think that all these crazy homeless people are victims too… You need to invite them to your house and you can then write a news release about how they are wonderful people that are down on their luck. You’re a joke…

    2. get off the computer go volunteer at the hospital in this article and then you will know the real facts not the ones the little man is whispering in your head.

  3. This is a mess! It is a absolutely shameful. An intentionally ill informed and embarrassingly inaccurate piece of hate speach disguised as a piece of journalism. Shame on you! I will not even waste my time offering fact and REAL sources to anyone willing to publish this foul drivel.
    Do your homework and be HONEST or please leave this town alone. Thank you.

    1. Sacramento use to be a beautiful city where my son great grandmothers had lived all their 102 yrs on this earth but now there are violent Drug addicts roaming the streets of downtown.

    2. Tami Donnelson – Way to go! (using an exclamation point for emphasis to make up for lack of insight and ability to write). What is “shameful” is that you attack Ms. Russell, without knowing anything about her, who has done nothing other than offer a forum for those first responders who take their lives into their own hands when reporting to work, to express themselves, to express concern. Shame on you!…for not wasting your time to respond in a rational and coherent fashion. Your lack of effort, or inability to do so, displays the fact that you have no real facts or sources to share. If you do, we’re all waiting to hear your words of glorious and profound wisdom. Please Ms. Donnelson, show us the way. Until then, know that Ms. Russell has been working honestly, and with integrity and compassion, to understand the problem, truly assess it, identify strategies with which to address the issues, attempt to plan and implement strategies, all the while working toward improving the lives of those who find themselves on the street. Because we MUST help them get off of the street. This is a humanitarian disaster which cannot be ignored. Also, and this may be difficult for you, focus…we are speaking of drug addicted/mentally challenged people, not the homeless who have found themselves without shelter, food security, etc., by virtue of financial challenges. The spectrum of “homeless” is incredibly broad. For purposes of this article, the target is drug addicted, vagrants, so, please, focus. I have 25 years of experience in public service, 14 of which were spent working as a defense investigator, working for and representing all manner of defendants, from drug offenders to murderers. Working on the front line, such as those interviewed in this article, taught me the same things about many of them, they make poor choices and then become entrenched in, and gripped by, addiction. It is imperative we help them, as a society, before more harm comes to them. If you read, and actually comprehend the article, you will see that the folks interviewed are at their wits end, but still have compassion and empathy – this is why they are in the fields in which they work in the first place. You call this article “foul drivel”; what lens are you peering through? What has happened to you that you are attacking hard working people who want to find an answer to the madness that is the current state of affairs with this particular demographic? Again, please enlighten all of us, Ms. Donnelson, we await with bated breath. And finally, you indicate that Ms. Russell should “leave this town alone”. Nay, she should not. She should keep on fighting the good fight, being selfless, exposing herself to hate speech, which is what you have spewed. We need more people like Ms. Russell to stand up and say, “This is not right. I’m going to do something about it.” Perhaps, you should also…

  4. “Less than ten percent will actually go into a shelter; the majority want to stay on the street, which is why housing is not the answer.” Um shelters and housing are two totally different things. Shelters are often overcrowded, loud, chaotic and have lots of rules. Getting these people housing is a crucial step to detox and sobriety. It also greatly reduces expensive ER visits. This story is horribly slanted.

      1. OMG—- I don’t have a solution except to say that we have to find a way to get these people away from the source- the streets , THEN maybe they could live on 900.00 a month. I made less than that when I was newly divorced in Atlanta. Had a job I walked to so gas bill was low. Got a roommate. Clipped coupons. Blah, blah , blah.
        The main moral is this story is that I was NOT in California!!!! Especially, the expensive cities. Let’s start there….

    1. Uh, you got it backwards, dude, First you get sobriety, then you will have the ability to maintain the housing. Wtf do you think is gonna happen giving a bunch of mentally unstable, using addicts housing? Magically, they’ll see the light, put down that needle and suddenly get a job????
      Who are you kidding here?? That place will be trashed & stripped of anything worth trading for dope, in a week!!!! That is the reality!!!

  5. This woman thinks she is sooooooo smart and soooooo important. She is actively making fun of these comments on her “super duper secret” Facebook group right now. I have never encountered a more self righteous, egotistical person in my life. Anyone who has to speak about how accomplished they are is probably….not very fullfilled. Ramona, all you do is complain and demonize. What are you actually doing about the problem other than venting loudly. You are part of the problem and no one takes you seriously. The homeless epidemic that has swept American is varied and complicated. You make it seem so simple. Throw all the druggies in prison and it all goes away right? All you care about is that they leave your precious Land Park. The super elite!
    And yes Ramona, there are likely typos in my response because I am on a phone with fat fingers. Grow up.

    1. Firstly I’d like to know how Ramona is part of the problem? As far as I know and Ramona can confirm if she’d like but, I don’t believe she’s ever made someone homeless. So that statement doesn’t make sense. As far as the homeless issue being complicated I disagree with that as well. It’s not that complicated. People are either economically unable to maintain housing (unemployment/ unexpected medical bills etc.) or physically unable to maintain housing (drug addiction/ mental health). Again Not that complicated really. The chronically homeless usually fall into the latter category. As economic victims of homelessness tend to accept and seek out available help and programs it tends to be a temporary condition. So while locking up all the “ druggies” won’t solve everything it definitely would make a dent on the chronically homeless. It’s not a coincidence that the explosion in this type of homeless population coincides with changes in the laws that have resulted in mass release of those convicted of these so called victimless crimes like drug use and theft. So it stands to reason that undoing these changes in the law would reverse these trends in homelessness we are seeing. As far as the personal attacks on Romona I can’t answer to those but to say everything you accuse her of sounds a lot like you projecting.

  6. The transient issues Sacramento and others in California are dealing with are well known to us Chicoans too.

    We have a sect of our community who insist we fear-monger and aren’t being truthful about the issues. Really? Over the past week along we had a dog murdered which allegedly occurred by a transient, we had knifings by transients, armed robberies by transients, multiple fires at the park, the channel, and three local business’, all allegedly by transients, and I could go on and on.

    And yes, many, many are from out of Chico, indeed, many are from out of state.

    The point in time (PIT) survey is a complete joke. The homeless who want to get help, do. The huge subset that are transients amongst the homeless do NOT want help. The questions are not structured to ask where they truly hail from or why they are here. When I asked the past PIT director to add some questions she had the gall to say I could pay $1000 per question!!! What? When non-profits are the folks driving the volunteer part of the survey, yeah, I question how much they want to know, as from experience it appears SOME of them do not truly want to solve the problems.

    Red Flag- Why do we keep trying to pretend people ‘fell’ into homelessness primarily due to job losses or natural disasters? They didn’t. It is primarily due to opioid addiction and mental health issues. And until we insist they begin addressing those two issues first, we can’t even hope to make a dent in reducing the unhoused population.

    Our police, fire, parks, and hospital staff have told me personally that this issue is so out of control that they are losing staff to communities who don’t pretend this isn’t a problem and who have measures in place to protect them. And they say the cost to keep responding to transient calls, treat them, and retreat them as it happens over and over, is astronomical. They also say what can’t be measured is those in the community who couldn’t be helped or who could or have died because of slower response times due to the large percentage of transient calls they respond to each day.

    Some of the local Social Justice Warriors need time check themselves and look at who is really distorting facts!!! We have solid information and article after article about this issue. And if city councils that are subversively controlling how information is gathered we would have the data faster instead of having to dig for it. How about we just start tracking ‘last known address/how recently there’ calls with a checkbox on all police, fire and medical calls? And how about if our post office doesn’t tell people to just put the JC as their address? If we tracked it, then maybe the service providers could actually apply for grant money that pays for opioid, alcohol, and mental health detox/recovery services so we can truly give meaningful help to these individuals?

    This part here from the article is so true:
    “Brad, who has been punched in the face twice by transients, says, “There is a segment of society that can no longer control themselves and are not working on their problems. Does the average person pass out in public or on someone’s lawn from using illegal drugs, steal your package or bike, then assault you? No, but there has been a shift where this is considered the new normal, and the people getting abused are the ones paying taxes and trying to raise their kids while stepping over human feces and dirty needles.”

    I think some of the naysayers are starting to see their time of being unchallenged coming to an end and are trying to bully others to shut them up about the truth they (we) are all seeing daily in our communities. Hopefully soon any council members or other leaders/representatives will be ousted if they don’t listen to and protect the majority in their communities.

  7. Great article. Anecdotal? Sure. But from people who see and deal with this crap every day. I have no doubt their accounts are accurate.

    Everyone who doubts the accuracy of this should watch a video documentary by Seattle’s KOMO news on YouTube called “A Tale of Three Cities”. Homeless is not a housing problem, it is a drug problem. Without meaningful enforcement and intervention, this crisis will not improve.

    1. 100% correct, homeless is not a housing problem as I confirmed with a Chief of Police, it is a drug problem and or a mental illness problem (probably due to drugs.).

  8. So according to the previous 4 comments, this article is completely untrue and unworthy of publishing.

    They must be living in another world or perhaps drug induced vagrancy imported from other states and nations is not a problem here in California.

  9. And postscript: Many taxpayers don’t know it, but the Office of Education defines/counts children as homeless if they live in mobile homes/trailer parks or live in multi-generational homes. This significantly skews data.

    Reality: Homeless is being in a shelter, living in a car, or seeing stars. Sorry, but some folks cherry pick info to make their numbers and jobs matter.

  10. Sounds like Lisa, Renee, Tami, and Drew have some kind of a stake in the Homeless Industrial Complex.
    If they are four different people, that is. More likely it’s one person commenting four times.

  11. “Less than 10% will go to a shelter which is why housing isn’t the option” wow that was one of the dumbest things I’ve read all year. Thanks!

  12. This is the same story we all hear from people we know in these fields of work. Stats are collected by those who make money based on those stats so can’t be trusted.

  13. Sacramento has become straight up DANGEROUS.

    Last time I went downtown to Chicago Fire Pizza, I was shocked to see how many people were on the street. As soon as I parked, adrugged out woman came up to me and started mumbling. I had no idea what she was saying – she wasn’t asking for money. she was just babbling.

    I asked my buddy who met me at the resteraunt if it was always like this, and he said it was just getting worse.

    After eating, we met another friend over at Starbucks off of J Street. Seemed like a nice neighborhood, but across the street at the Weinershnitzle Hot Dog Stand there were hispanic hookers hanging out and multiple cars driving around in circles. Seemed like a human trafficking situation.

    SCARY

  14. It is very concerning that some persons might actually believe the above article. Let’s write a story and make up the information and hope someone believes it. Very irresponsible reporting or writing. Whatever you want to call this fantasy.

    1. You must not be from Sacramento…. Arden Arcade? Ever been there? Or are you from the high class huge houses beautiful be lawn part? Venture out. Then tell me how you feel by what you’ve seen.

  15. Having to go in/out of hospitals every day for the last 25 years, I can assure everyone that the majority of emergency rooms are now (the last 4-5 years) filled with drug addicted transients. Most are at Sutter General because of their proximity to downtown, but UC Davis and Mercy General are affected as well. And Tami, who lives in Chico, guess what? Enloe Hospital in Chico is no different. Filled with drug addicts abusing the system. Thanks Ramona Russell for providing facts from people who live it, see it, treat it every day.

  16. All you people denying the truthfulness of this article will see the light once your neighborhood is invaded by these criminals who couldn’t care less how you feel.

  17. I am shocked by the claims made in this article. As a journal it lacks any facts that are referenced with any published data. I am a volunteer for an non profit in Sacramento ((Humanitarian Action Network) and we personal encounters with hundreds of unsheltered community members living on the street. We have not had seen the horrific magnitude of issues you claim in this article. Please see the homeless population as humans first. Everyone has a story and we are not here to judge. Let’s try to do better by contributing positively the best way we are able.

  18. We need more people to stand up… our business is suffering we are calling sac PD daily at least 4 to 5 times a day…t his is crazy, we have cameras we are calling after hours or even after midnight… it is out of control….

    1. Delgado, I support you in this. Yes, it needs to be much better managed. But look at the article and reread it. Very poorly researched. I have handled this by writing our political leaders. I would guess you do too. The county and state need to react. If we (Sacramento) are the only ones who respond, we will simply get more problems moving here. Hopefully, we, as citizens will put a lot more resources into solving and preventing this problem in the future.

  19. Thank you for this article. There two segments of the transient population. One group is doing everything they can to get help and get off the streets. The other group refuses help, despite repeated offers from others. This article clearly is talk about the latter. The stories in this article are very similar to what my friends in law enforcement tell me. Many of them are mistrusting of the press and therefore want anonymity.

  20. Editor’s note:
    A guy I know who drives for LYFT sent me this:
    “BTW I had a Sac paramedic in the car last night & he totally & completely confirmed your article about the homeless!!”

    We know the people interviewed for the article. They can’t go on the record.

    Every article we have written on the homeless explosion and health concerns has been well researched, sourced and verified, and shared thousands of times by people experiencing the same.
    You have to ask why there is so much pushback on a well-known and extensively reported California crisis?

    1. Clearly the pushback people all have a stake in the
      $$$$$HOMELESS INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX$$$$$
      It cannot be explained any other way, can it?

  21. This is one of the most accurate accounts I have read. Quite tame given what I have seen on our streets. I have worked side by side with providers, social workers, POP officers and mental health professionals. I was a community prosecutor through 2 rotations, one ending in 2009 and the other beginning in 2014. I was shocked at the increase in numbers and the complacency they maintained of their life choices. I spent my time in south Sacramento. I watched providers spend hour after hour offering a huge array of services only to be rejected daily. Many manifest psychosis or symptoms of the brain insult from chronic and toxic addiction. Housing will not help most. Our local leaders believe they will be amenable to the rehab and mental health treatment needed, if we provide housing first. Anyone who understands long term addiction, i.e., the choice of a continuous altered state -recognizes that the answer is far more complicated than first step housing. This has gone on too long now. Many opportunities were missed. Most approaches providing a level of independence and autonomy will fail. We have to reopen the state hospitals. Many can never undo the damage or be “fixed.” I continue to deal with some of this population daily in my work.

  22. “Factual information” is nothing but twisted excuses provided by the city leaders, such as the mayor, who claims that over 90% of the “homeless” are native Sacramentans but fail to mention that their interpretation of native is someone who has been in town for more than a year. The article contains first hand accounts from people that actually deal with the transients on a one to one basis every day. I’ve written to the mayor and asked that he go to some of the encampments and talk to the people and see what they have to say since they are his constituents. Never heard back. I have a co-worker who along with his church group provides meals to the people on the streets. He said while they usually accept the food, they just about always turn down offers for shelter and assistance. He said the shelter that his group is associated with is mostly utilized by folks truly down on their luck, especially during the winter months, but beds are always available at the beginning of each month because people get their monthly checks and the first thing they do is go out and buy and binge on whatever it is that they use and show back up at the shelter once they run out of drugs/money. When they do go back, many are still buzzing and can be unpredictable. This guy, his family, and his church have huge hearts to do what they do, no doubt, and I’m absolutely aware that this doesn’t apply to everyone on the streets but based on what I see every single day, it appears to be the norm. Another co-worker, a Vietnam vet, offered $20 to a guy holding up a sign stating that he was a hungry homeless vet. All the guy had to do was to show his DD214 (military discharge papers), to my co-worker and the $20 would be his. The guy asked “what’s a DD214?” Okay… Keep the stories coming Ramona and thanks for keeping it real.

  23. The fact is that this a part of what living on planet earth is all about. Even if there were no transients, no one can avoid the process of birth, old age, disease and death. We are all subject to these conditions. It is part of having a material body. We are not these material forms. We are spirit souls living inside a dead material form. It only looks alive as long as it is occupied by a soul. When the soul departs, the body reverts to mud and water. The material realm is not our real home. But we have to take birth here lifetime after lifetime until we awaken our dormant love for God. When that love is rekindled, the doors will open and we can return to the spiritual world that is our real home. Everyone here is a transient. We are all addicted to our self-centered way of living. The only solution is not to try to make this world into a better place, but to qualify ourselves for getting out. Chant Hare Krishna and your life will be sublime.

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