Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Public Safety in the Parkway

The title of today’s article in the Sacramento Bee, Rangers roust Sacramento homeless -- yet again -- and admit it's not the answer, is correct in that the answer to homelessness eludes us, (and has for generations) but it is a large part of the answer to establishing public safety in the American River Parkway which is the concern of law enforcement, and let the political public leadership work on the other.

An excerpt.

“Most of the estimated 200 people illegally camping along the downtown Sacramento stretch of the American River simply picked up their tents and moved deeper into the underbrush.

“As county park rangers swept straggling campers from beneath oak and ash trees Monday – after 48-hour notices to vacate were issued five days earlier – a collective feeling of helplessness filled the wet sky.

"It's not the solution," park Ranger Supervisor John Havicon said of the decades-long practice of periodically rousting the homeless. "Ultimately, the city and county have to come up with a plan."

“Park rangers passed out plastic garbage bags and asked those living near the bike trail to move on as sheriff's work crews hauled out abandoned tents, twisted bits of metal, errant clothing and other detritus.

"The word is out we don't have any way to maintain the area and control the area," said Havicon, who is one of 11 county park rangers, down from 22. "Basically, we're just reactionary."

“The growing numbers of homeless people camping on the parkway between Highway 160 and a nearby train trestle, a short walk over the river to social service groups such as Loaves & Fishes, prompted complaints by nearby residents and cyclists who had to weave through the crowds on their morning commutes.

“County Supervisor Phil Serna raised more than $35,000 recently to secure 32 beds for 60 days at the Salvation Army and to keep a winter sanctuary program going through March. Nineteen of the 32 beds have been claimed.

“But just one of the 64 people living in the Safe Ground Sacramento camp – which comprises less than a third of those living in the vicinity – took up the Salvation Army. Another got a long-haul trucking job that came with media publicity.

“The remaining 62 simply set up another Safe Ground camp a short walk away….

“But no one seems to know what to do with those who call the parkway home.

“George Pulis, 60, who is not a Safe Ground member, transplanted his tent about 200 yards south Monday.

“He prefers the parkway – where he's lived for 20 years – to shelters because there aren't rules about when he comes and goes, he can drink two cans of the alcoholic Four Loko each day, and friends keep track of his medications for paranoid schizophrenia and depression, he said.

"I don't like this part of it, but it comes with the territory," he said as he moved his belongings.”