About 120 people showed up at the Horseman's Association meeting room tonight to hear from the City of Sacramento's contractor (Hope Cooperative) at the homeless shelter on Auburn Blvd., the County - which has to deal with the impacts of the shelter that have spilled out into the surrouding unincorporated area - , and the Sacramento City Council member whose district includes the homeless shelter and the sadly-deteriorating Del Paso Regional Park.
When that kind of crowd shows up for an evening meeting you know there is something haywire going on. It was pretty clear from the presentations and the passionate responses of the crowd that the operations of the shelter have to change. Several people commented that the current operations are not working, either for the intended unhoused customers, the park environment, or the safety of the surrounding neighborhoods. Further, the pleas for help by neighbors who have been threatened on their own property by vagrants - whether drug-affected, mentally unstable, or whatever - have gone unanswered. That's utterly unacceptable. If people don't feel safe in their own homes there is a serious law enforcement problem. Other attendees commented about the damage to Arcade Creek and the environment, about unsanitary conditions at the park playground, and about how homeless people felt unsafe if they slept in the shelter. They said that, as well-meaning as the shelter has been intended, it has in reality functioned as a magnet, attracting an array of serious drawbacks.
As the Q&A progressed, it was apparent that a governance problem is at the root of the situation. The City of Sacramento, in its haste to take a bite out of the homeless problem, put the shelter as far away from city residents as it could. No people live in - or more precisely, are allowed to live in - Del Paso Park. That means no City of Sacramento voters live in Del Paso Park. All of the concerned, impacted people live in unincorporated Sacramento County. So when they complain to the City of Sacramento Mayor or City Council, they get nowhere. If they complain to the County Board of Supervisors, the Board accurately responds they don't have jurisdiction inside the City of Sacramento. Sacramento City Council Member Sean Loloee was at the meeting and told people he "feels their pain". That did not sit well with the unincorporated residents, but in fairness to Councilmember Loloee, he is but one vote on the 9-member City Council of the City of Sacramento. County Supervisor Rich Desmond was there with his Homeless Services Director, Emily Halcon. They expressed their own frustrations that have resulted from not having jurisdiction over the source of the problem. They said they are optimistic that the new "Safe Ground" facility the County is putting on Watt Avenue north of I-80. will be able to absorb the most significant problems; the Auburn Blvd. facility could well become a facility only for homeless women with children.
The other sore point discussed was the park itself. It remains poorly maintained, improperly used, and unsafe. Supervisor Desmond proposed, and the audience seemed to agree, that the spike of city land east of Watt should be detached from the City of Sacramento and turned over to the County. It remains to be seen whether the County will follow through by initiating such a procedure. Ultimately, the audience was told to be in contact with both the City of Sacramento and the County.