In the Woodlake News, the Newsletter of the Woodlake Neighborhood Association, the front page article, Hey You, Get Out Of My Trash: The Transient Issue in Woodlake, opened with this paragraph:
“With our proximity to the river, homeless service organizations, and the recycling depot on Arden, we will always see the chronically homeless in our area.”
And the rest of the article described how to reduce the problem by hiding your trash, or putting it out the morning of pickup, etc, ending with a place to send money to help the homeless.
What is sad about this approach is that it is exactly the “we can’t do anything except throw good money after bad” attitude that has allowed the problem to continue to grow.
Let’s look at each of the three issues the author correctly identified:
1) "Proximity to the river": Woodlake, on the north side of the river, is very close to one of the most beautiful areas of the Lower American River, and also unfortunately, close to the area where large-scale illegal camping—it is estimated that 100-150 homeless have been camping in that area, some for 10-15 years.
They have been allowed to camp there because the city of Sacramento and Sacramento County has never taken a zero tolerance approach to the issue and enforced the anti camping ordinance at the level it deserves, which would dramatically reduce the problem.
2) "Homeless service organizations": On the south side of the river is a concentration of homeless service organizations whose primary approach to the homeless has been in the providing of domestic services rather than personal transformative services, which have resulted in making it easier for the homeless to camp in the Parkway.
If the homeless organizations focused more on changing the behavior of the homeless to move out of homeless rather than supporting them in their homelessness, the problem would be reduced dramatically.
3) "Recycling depot on Arden": The location is merely good business by the owners of the depot to be near where the business is.
Work on the other two, and the depot would eventually move or fold.
Yes, the poor will always be with us, and we will always be willing to help with our voluntary charitable actions, and we will always remain tolerant and supportive of those who are struggling to right their lives, but our help and tolerance should not be at the expense of the public safety and civil order we elect political leadership to provide.
Our proposed solution to the issue is to form a Joint Powers Authority of adjacent governments, which would then create a nonprofit organization to manage and raise supplemental funding for the American River Parkway, outlined on our strategy page, which would result in a much more vigorous oversight and advocacy around the illegal camping issue, as the nonprofit’s effectiveness at stopping the illegal camping in the Parkway would be directly connected to their ability to raise funding—some of which would surely be coming from Woodlake.
The North Sacramento Chamber of Commerce has an excellent webpage devoted to the issue, and this is an issue that has been with us for some time, as this 2004 article from the Sacramento News & Review about the bike trail through the Woodlake area of the Parkway reveals.