Friday, February 04, 2011

Some History of Parkway Illegal Camping

To remind everyone of the length of time that illegal camping by the homeless has been a problem on the Parkway, and how long Bob Slobe (namesake of our Parkway Advocate Award) has been advocating something be done about it, here is an article from 2001.

It was a long meeting with Bob Slobe many years ago which helped me decide to found ARPPS as a nonprofit organization, and assume a role supporting Bob’s advocacy to make the Parkway safe in the Lower Reach area.

Here is the article from the Sacramento Bee.

The Sacramento Bee 2001-08-06 METRO METRO FINAL B1
Robert D. Davila, Bee Staff Writer,

Parkway plight, Illegal camps along river spur action

“As homeless people stream toward downtown every morning on north 12th and 16th streets, troubling signs of where some spent the night remain behind in the American River Parkway.

“Piles of discarded clothes and shoes. Empty beverage bottles, beer cans and food wrappers. Scattered mattresses and sleeping bags. Tents, tarps, abandoned furniture and stripped bicycles. Soiled toilet paper and feces. Drug paraphernalia.

“The environmental toll is visible, too: Oak branches cut and stacked for cover. Holes dug for campfires. Elderberry trees consumed as firewood. Marshes littered with trash. Grassland trampled and destroyed.

“Prompted by complaints from North Sacramento activist Bob Slobe, the county is stepping up efforts to stop illegal camping in the lower American River Parkway. During summer, many homeless people leave the hard sidewalks and doorways downtown for the lush woods on the north side of the river between Highway 160 and the Capital City Freeway.

“Last month, the parks department assigned two rangers to patrol the lower parkway area to issue citations and clean out abandoned camps. During the first three weeks, "I'd say we took about 15 truckloads of garbage from out of there, and we haven't even made a dent in it," Ranger Supervisor Dave Lydick said.

“County Executive Terry Schutten, who recently toured abandoned camps, agreed to seek permanent funding for the enforcement effort in next year's budget.

“Meanwhile, a meeting of local officials, homeless advocates and community activists is planned.

“Solutions won't be easy. With emergency shelters full, homeless advocates argue, many of the illegal campers simply have no other place to go. Others contend campsites damage natural habitat and discourage other people from using the parkway. Meanwhile, both sides alternately blame local officials for not providing more low-income housing and for failing to enforce anti-camping laws.

“Along with citations, officers issue a list of social services agencies to campers in the parkway. But the encounters can be frustrating for both parties, Ranger Will Safford said.

"One guy got all mad at me and said, 'What are we supposed to do?' " Safford said. "I tell people that there is only so much we can do, but the fact is that they can't camp in the parkway."

“On a recent patrol with partner Cres Aldridge, Safford cited Steven Dimas for illegal camping near Discovery Park. Dimas said he had spent two months deep inside a wooded area between the Garden Highway and the Sacramento River.

"I don't like people in shelters," said Dimas, who is on probation. "I have anger management" problems, he added.

“Slobe, whose family once owned the parkway land next to North Sacramento, earlier this year launched a campaign to draw attention to illegal camping. He bombarded officials with calls and e-mails, testified before the county parks commission and set up a Web site with dozens of pictures of trash and damage left by campers.

“Slobe complained that the parkway between Highway 160 and the Capital City Freeway gets less attention than areas upstream in Arden, Carmichael and Fair Oaks. If the county can't maintain the lower American River area, he said, a new steward should take over the area.

"If they can fund the golf ball machine at Ancil Hoffman (golf course), they can fund this," Slobe said. "It's a horrible problem, and it's unfair to put me or anybody else in the position of having to scream about this."

“Parks chief Ron Suter said most campers choose the parkway by downtown because it is near social services for homeless people. Even Discovery Park, which receives heavy attention, has homeless campers, he said.

“Tim Brown, executive director of Loaves & Fishes, said he disagrees with some advocates who who call for a legal camping site for homeless people. "People should be in housing and not settle for camping," he said.

“But enforcement against homeless campers in the parkway is not a solution, Brown added.

"Giving people tickets when the shelters are full is immoral and unnecessary," he said. "You get tickets (or) warrants and end up going to jail in some cases just because you have no choices."