The tent city, spread over an area the size of several football fields, has local officials scrambling over how to handle the area's homeless crisis.
More than a year ago, a handful of homeless people staked out the site on the northern edge of downtown Sacramento. Now there are more than 100 tents and anywhere between 300 to 400 people living without running water or sanitation. Their only protection from the elements is nylon tents and plastic tarps.
The piece goes on to tell the story of a laid off welder from Colorado who moved west looking for work.
Months went by without work. Cutch lost his house, his car was stolen, his savings ran out. This past August, he took up a friend's invitation to come to California, but that didn't work out, either.
Growing unemployment, moving west, looking for work that isn’t there – sound familiar to the 1930s?
So while Sacramento gears up for a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the musical lyrics of rap star Lil’ Wayne, and the colliding gloves of mixed martial arts hometown star Nick Diaz, a significant homeless population of “anywhere between 300 to 400 people (is) living without running water or sanitation. Their only protection from the elements is nylon tents and plastic tarps.”
During a time when people are supposedly cutting back on luxury items and entertainment, all I can say is I hope these events will offer a SIGNFICANT portion of their revenue to addressing this and other local social problems.
On a broader level, as tent cities mushroom nation-wide, systems and services will need to be established that cater to the homeless’ social needs. Granted, state monies are scant. However, if accessible shelters for victims are not made available, unseen and under-reported victimization, in particular to women, will rise as fast as the tent cities.
Those who think excessive levels of intimate partner violence are limited to developing countries and only stand as exceptions in the U.S. (Rihanna-Chris Brown) need only look at Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath for a reality check. The fact is, rapid displacement, poverty, isolation and a lack of services skyrocket women’s victimization, even within our borders.
From the Clarion Ledger (thanks to Poverty in America for the heads up), noting a study conducted from 2006-07:
Women living in emergency trailer parks in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina were three times more likely to become victims of domestic or sexual violence than they were prior to the storm, according to a new study published by the American Medical Association.
Dr. Lynn Lawry, the lead author of the report published Monday in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, said the level of violence found in the survey is comparable to similar studies performed in camps for displaced people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and other war-torn countries.
Let’s read that again: “…the level of violence found in the survey is comparable to similar studies performed in camps for displaced people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and other war-torn countries.” Prevention needs to start, right now.
Update from Sacramento's ABC affiliate (thanks Ta'aca for the heads up)...
Looks like tensions are emerging as the city and homeless residents attempt to tease out what is best for this situation. From the television news story:
"I don't like having a third world country inside the city," said Mayor Kevin Johnson.
Johnson wants to close the homeless camp and possibly open a city-sanctioned homeless safe zone with running water and toilets.
"We can't ignore our homeless. We have a moral obligation to help," said Johnson.
But tent city residents don't want to move. One resident resorted to violence and attacked a News10 cameraman covering the story on Wednesday. No one was hurt.
"Where are we supposed to go?" said tent city resident Luis.
(Photo courtesy of NPR).