Monday, November 10, 2008

Homeless in Sacramento

An excellent article from Sacramento News & Review profiling the various folks who are homeless in the tent town in Sacramento’s midtown area, and the rules they live by, including a truly astounding comment on how even the homeless view those who camp in the American River Parkway…see #14 below.

This is a story that is a must-read for those who are helping make policy in our fair city around the camping by the homeless in the Parkway.

An excerpt.

“The old man wants nothing to do with the story. Not a thing. Can’t really blame him, considering what happened out here the other day. He’s talking about moving on, trying his luck in Las Vegas or Reno, getting the hell out of Tent Town.

“It’s a desolate place, a ragtag collection of tents, tarps and lean-tos pitched on a half-acre of burned and scalded scrub brush just north of Midtown, between 20th and 28th streets. Once, this patch of wasteland served as the Sacramento dump. When the Union Pacific roars by Tent Town, there’s no question which side of the tracks you’re on.

“The old man’s been out here three months. He’s a skilled craftsman, but there’s no work. There are other folks, men and women, who’ve been out here longer for the same reason. Then there are the ones who’ve been homeless for years, dragged down by drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness and disease, or just plain dumb luck.

“It makes for a volatile mix, and navigating through this no man’s land of poverty, depredation and occasional violence can be a daunting prospect. The old man knows the way, as do many of the people who inhabit this gritty tableau. Given the present economic downturn, the lessons they have learned are invaluable for those of us who may be joining their ranks sooner than we think. So, without further ado, here’s a list of survival tips from the denizens of Tent Town. May you never be in need of them…

“14. Stay away from the river

“It’s a half-mile from Tent Town to the American River, where the hard-core, chronically homeless hole up in the dense foliage leading up to its banks. The level of depravity increases the nearer you get to the water, which is why the American River Parkway is heavily patrolled by park rangers from Discovery Park to Cal Expo. “We heard screams coming from there last night,” says Kim. She’d be pretty if all of her front teeth hadn’t been knocked out. “They hauled another body out of there the other day, some mummified dude,” Ace adds. Kim shivers.”