1. Paula Lomazzi writes the Mayor and City Council
From Paula Lomazzi
Dear Mayor Fargo and City Council Members,
We could really use a tent city in Sacramento. We could really use one or more tent cities in most major cities in the US that have not been able to solve their housing shortages for low-low income citizens. Shelter systems have been inadequate and have not been able to provide shelter for families that wish to stay together, people confined to wheel chairs, people with dogs, people that work and have no where to store their changes of cloths or tools of trade, and homeless people wishing to better their own lives without having someone else determine for them what actions they must take to do that. Besides, there aren't enough shelter beds for all those currently experiencing homelessness. Homeless people need safety and stability. They need the legal right to sleep, because they are human beings and must sleep to survive. They deserve your respect.
Thank you for your consideration and thoughtfulness. Visit Portland, Oregon's Dignity Village website for information on successful operations of tent cities http://dignityvillafe.org.
2. Councilmember Dave Jones responds
I don't think homeless persons should have to live in tents. For that reason, I supported the efforts to get the County to expand the number of emergency shelter beds. I also believe that we need more affordable housing. For that reason, I wrote the city's inclusionary affordable housing ordinance which requires the 10% of all of our new growth housing be affordable to very low income households, which makes it one of the strongest affordable housing ordinances in the state. I also support the County adopting a similar ordinance,as well as other cities. Thanks.
3. Dignity joins the fray
Dear Councilmember Dave Jones,
I read with interest both Paula Lomazzi's letter to the Mayor and Sacramento City Council and your reply to that letter to which I was privy and I agree with you that homeless people shouldn't have to live in tents. People deserve a lot better than even the best-run tentcities like Dignity Village are able to provide.
But I noticed in the Sacramento Bee story about the Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee's effort to set up a tentcity there that at Sutter's Landing, when Mayor Fargo offered a place in the shelters for the night to the thirty or so homeless-but-hopeful campers that there were no takers. The story said that there were fifty vacant beds available for the night at the missions. I'm wondering what this says about the state of emergency shelter accomodation in your town and if energy spent on expanding the number of emergency shelter beds is well placed.
I know that here in Portland, OR, as the last bits of the City's Shelter Reconfiguration Plan for single, homeless adults fall into place, there are about 630 spaces (meaning and including mats on the floors) when the shelters' overflows open during the coldest months and according to the latest figures (which are probably low) about 1,700 people sleep out on any given night. It seems like too little too late.
We all know and agree that we need more affordable housing and Sacramento's Inclusionary Affordable Housing Ordinance, as you say one of the strongest affordable housing ordinances in the state, is a commendable piece of legislation. In Portland HB 3400, a real estate transfer tax of 1% on the sale of property above the value of $150,000, will generate millions of tax dollars for affordable housing when and if it's ever passed, another commendable piece of legislation.
Meanwhile what about the people in the street? What about the people recently murdered under bridges in Sacramento? What about the people living in doorways and under bushes and under bridges who are prey to violence and who lack even the basic amenities that places like Dignity Village are able to provide? What about the rising tide of homeless people not just in Sacramento and Portland that floods the cities on the West Coast of this country and beyond?
We at Dignity Village commend the efforts of Sacramento's Homeless Organizing Committee to set up a tentcity in your town for the safety and improvement in the living conditions of the homeless people there. We support and shall continue to support those efforts in any way we can. We ask that Mayor Fargo and the Sacramento City Council work with the Homeless Organizing Committee in their efforts to replicate the tentcity model.
Attached to this letter are Paula Lomazzi's letter to the Mayor and City Council of Sacramento, Councilmember Dave Jones' reply, and it is Cced to Mayor Fargo of Sacramento, CA, Mayor Vera Katz and Commissioner Eric Sten of Portland, OR, Ms Lomazzi of SHOC, officers of the village council Tim McCarthy and Brenda Gray, attorney Marc Jolin of the Oregon Law Center and it is Bcced to other interested parties.
Jack Tafari, chairman.
4. Steve Cohn joins in
Subject: Tent City in Sacramento
Dear Ms. Lomazzi,
Thank you for your email supporting a tent city in Sacramento. As I am sure you know, the Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee has recently filed for permits to form a tent city at both Muir Park at 16th and C Streets and Sutter's Landing Park near 28th and C Streets. The City's Parks and Recreation Department has turned down their applications each time. Camping in city parks is a violation of city code. Our parks are open to the public and designed for open space and recreational uses by all. Camping overnight is not one of those uses. It is the city's position that the use of any city park for long-term camping will not be granted and is not in the public interest.
The city has provided $2 million annually toward county shelters and services to serve the homeless population. It is important to note that in recent weeks the shelters have not been full and in fact had about 50 vacant beds per night. It is true that use of the shelters includes rules and a curfew and participation in social service programs; however, I believe our common goal should be to assist our homeless population in migrating into society.
I appreciate you sharing your views. I also urge you to bring your ideas to the City-County Board of Homelessness. You can contact the Board by calling Chair Dick Skelton at 966-3500.
5. SHOC comes back
Sent 2/28/03 by email. Cc to mayor and rest of city council members
Dear Councilmember Cohn.
Thank you for responding.
I am a member of the Sacramento City and County Board on Homelessness. I am also a member of Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee. I am also a board member of Sacramento Housing Alliance and a member of Health Care for the Homeless and California Homeless Civil Rights Organizing Project. And I am, also, homeless.
[I represent myself in this correspondence] I think a lot of members of this society do not consider homeless people a member of society. Members of society do include the people who are experiencing homelessness. They are an integral part of society and they are part of the public. This fact needs to be acknowledged by you and every one else that may think people experiencing homelessness are somehow less than a part of the public and society. They may have less money. They may have less possessions. They may have less comfort. But they do not have less worth. And certainly not less in strength of Spirit.
So, there are many members of the public that have expressed interest in using one little portion of one city park for long term camping. Our homeless population does not need to migrate into society - They are a part of society, already. I think we all need [to] love and respect more than anything, and once that is more firmly in place, housing for all people will become a reality.
I have not brought the tent city up more than in passing to the other members of the City/County Board on Homelessness because our time together is intensely focused right now on how to best implement the 5-year plan. I think it is a very good plan, basically, with a strong focus on permanent supportive housing for 1,600 people. This hopefully will become a reality within the next 5 years, but meanwhile there are 1,600 people that are in need of housing and/or shelter for a longer duration than 2 weeks.
Even though we do not agree on the tent city issue, I hope we can work diligently together to bring about the actualization of housing for 1,600 people.
to be continued...