Sacramento “Tent City” To Be Dismantled

Posted: March 21, 2009 in Bureauacracy, Compassion, Discrimination, Government, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Housing, Politics

A couple of days ago, ABC News 10 Live, posted an article about California’s Governor Schwarzenegger and Sacramento Mayor, Kevin Johnson, touring the "tent city" which had been recently spotlighted on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Yesterday, a Sacramento Bee article reported that the "tent city" would be closed down and a fence erected around the property within the next month. Its "residents" would be "… asked to move into local shelters and other indoor structures."

The Sacramento Bee article triggered a series of thoughts and questions in my mind.  

First, I found myself wondering if the city’s move to close it down and relocate its residents "indoors" to be nothing more than a public relations ploy. After all, according to the article, the tent city has been there for quite a number of years. However, it was only after its appearance on the Winfrey show that it gained international notice and public outrage.

So, could this recent decision by Sacramento’s "… elected officials to convene meetings to figure out a solution" be an attempt to deflect criticism?

Second, was in reference to Kevin Johnson, the city’s mayor:

"Johnson said he was fulfilling a campaign promise to confront the homelessness issue. Current conditions for homeless people in the capital city are ‘unsafe, unsanitary and irresponsible on our part,’ he said."

Let me preface, what I say next by stating that Mayor Johnson is relatively new to his position. He took his Oath of Office just this past December. He pretty much has to address a pre-existing situation. So, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at this point.

However, I did note the article pointed out that the Mayor was trying to fulfill his "… campaign promise to confront the homelessness issue."

To be fair, I don’t know if he actually used that word in one of his campaign promises, or if it was injected by the article’s journalist for dramatic effect.

Regardless, it’s not a word I personally would have used because of its underlying meaning.

The word "confront" is defined on as:

–verb (used with object)

1. to face in hostility or defiance; oppose

I’m sure it seems like I’m nitpicking over one word. However, words have a huge impact on how we perceive the world around us; and subsequently, how we respond to any given situation.

Rather than thinking in term of confronting homelessness, how about just finding and implementing solutions which provide true remedies?

Which brings me to this…

The article stated that the Mayor "… is proposing that the winter homeless shelter there remain open until June 30."

I can’t help but ask what will happen after June 30.

The fact is that the residents of Sacramento’s tent city already have shelter: their tents. Moving them into a "traditional" shelter isn’t a genuine solution – especially if it will be open only until the end of June. After that, those folks will most likely find themselves "unsheltered" again unless a more permanent solution is offered.

Again, to be fair – the article did mention that Sacramento’s plan is to relocate many of the tent city residents "… to various types of temporary and permanent indoor housing."

I have to give Mayor Johnson his due however. I completely agree with a statement he made to a group of news media:

"People living around the river deserve respect and dignity. For far too long, we’ve ignored the challenge."

While I don’t envy the task ahead of Mayor Johnson; still I can’t help but wonder.

I hope that his statement was more than just words spoken to assuage international scrutiny and public outrage.

I also hope that Sacramento’s plan to relocate the tent city residents is a genuine attempt to help those folks – and not merely a way of buying itself enough time to let the story fade from the public eye.

You see, another thing I’ve noticed about quite a number of elected leaders and bureaucrats – particularly with regards to homelessness – is that as long as the media spotlight is on them, they are all "peaches and cream" and seemingly willing to do whatever it takes to "help the homeless." Once the story hits the back pages however, it’s back to business as usual… and the homeless are left out in the cold again.

I hope that won’t be the case this time.

  1. anamerican says:

    What about this scenario for tent cities in our country:
    Get local charities and organizations that are supposed to be charged with taking care of homelessness into the tent cities, bring food, medical supplies and improve sanitation. In other words, help these people out in a way that works without penalizing them for being homeless by relocating them without a plan.

  2. Rev. Cynthia says:

    Thanks so much for not simply allowing these points to go unnoticed. Two weeks ago, I was up in Ojai to memorialize a friend of mine who had died there, while he was homeless in 2007. Ojai’s shelter system runs from December thru March every year. Those who are homeless go from church floor to church floor every night. There are five churches and the Grange Hall that provide a floor, uncovered foam mattresses, bedding, dinner and breakfast. From April to November folks are living on the streets.

    Am curious if you might have any statistics on the amount of money donated to house stray pets vs the funds donated for homeless people- do you happen to know?

    Rev. Cynthia

  3. Skye says:

    Is there enough indoor shelter available?

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