We have made numerous posts about homeless encampments, shelter proposals and the like over the years. And many of our discussions have focused on the City of Sacramento's selfish drive to transfer its homeless population into our own community, as though our own situation isn't worthy of consideration. Given the City of Sacramento's relentless push to have us solve their problems, our Newsroom Elves have suggested that it would be helpful to have a central place in our website for all things homelessness and unhoused - hence this page.
Homelessness is readily apparent in Arden Arcade and our neighboring unincorporated areas. But it is not a new phenomenon. The demographics of our community are such that it is no surprise to anyone that there are poor people among us, including those who are not fortunate to afford a place to live. The pandemic brought the situation out into full view, particularly as aided by the Boise decision. That's the court case which said people encamped on public property can't be removed unless there is a shelter bed available.
It is not true that all homeless people prefer to live on the streets and collect welfare checks. The causes of homelessness are many. Researchers tell us that traumatic events - divorce, loss of a job, the inability to pay for needed health-care, evictions - and chronic problems, like substance abuse, racial discrimination, or a criminal background that got in the way of finding a job, have driven people to the streets. The characteristics of the unhoused population are as diverse and varied as in the rest of the population. Our community's homeless encampments include people - some of them employed - who cannot afford the extraordinarily high price of rental housing, single parents with children, Veterans, the elderly, and disabled people. They live in tents, cars and run-down motor homes or maybe they just have blankets. Though not all unhoused people find refuge in substance addiction, a number of them have been driven to alcohol and drugs by despair; homeless is not a source of joy. Some are in dire need of mental health care, the approach to which has, by policy, been moved from one of compassion to one of imprisonment.
You cannot just snap your fingers and make homelessness go away. The root causes demand complex, expensive and time-consuming solutions. Shelters are supposed to be located in someone else's neighborhood. Scofflaws who litter and relieve themselves in public deserve punishment. The situation set is one of those dirty underbellies of society that people do not want to spend money on, though they demand governmental action (which costs money anyway).
So the state has thrown money at it and it has become politicized. Close your eyes and imagine politicians - let's say they are Mayors or are running for Mayor - with close ties to the Legislature and the Governor. Can you imagine those people using the state's cash to push unhoused people as far away from the voters of their jurisdiction as possible? Close your eyes again and picture our Board of Supervisors, having been drawn into the web of the City of Sacramento's control of the narrative, taking forever to understand they messed up and have to deal directly with the homeless population in the unincorporated Uncity. That's where we are today.
Only very recently, the County hired a person to run its homeless initiatives, created a Department of Homeless Services and Housing, and hired a new shelter operator. The County has several promising housing and shelter solutions in the pipeline, two of which are in our neck of the woods: a motel on Howe Avenue near CalExpo for permanent supportive housing and a large indoor/outdoor "Safe Stay" shelter on Watt Avenue just north of I-80 with wrap-around services and supervision. Despite that, the City of Sacramento continues to regard our community as a handy dumping ground for its own problems.
Time and again, the City of Sacramento has tried to establish a homeless shelter at CalExpo, without concern for impacts on Arden Arcade across the street. The Respite Center at the old Science Museum on Auburn Blvd. has brought a dumpster fire of adversity to the immediately adjacent unincorporated neighborhoods of our community. What both the Cal Expo and the Auburn Blvd. sites have in common is maximum distance from any voter of the City of Sacramento. Cal Expo, the American River and the long needle of uninhabited, unkempt Del Paso Park are used as buffers to protect the City of Sacramento's residents from the impacts of poorly-delivered homeless services. The problem is made much worse by the utter lack of mobility for shelter users who need access to services and jobs away from Cal Expo and Auburn Blvd.