Saturday, March 05, 2011

Illegal Camping in the Parkway

The contrast between this article in today’s Sacramento Bee and the one by Bob Slobe in this week’s Sacramento News & Review, which we posted yesterday, is remarkable.

What is also remarkable is how little public leadership—excepting County Supervisor Phil Serna—and Parkway advocacy groups, other than us, are making a public stand protecting the Parkway, rather than, by their silence, the illegal campers.

No one is against the truly homeless (Sacramentans care for and pray for their suffering to cease, offering significant help to ensure that) but all of us have a stake in ensuring public safety and environmental protection in the Parkway, and that leadership is in all too short of a supply these past many years.

An excerpt from today’s Bee article.

“Past a Boy Scout camp off busy Highway 160, veering away from the American River into forests of wild fennel, primary-color tents stood propped beneath willow trees kissed by spring.

“Two Sacramento County park rangers made their way along dirt trails attaching a flier to each tent with blue painter's tape.

"Oh, just give it to me," said JoAnne Bush when they came upon her spot beneath a tree split by lightning. Then she tossed aside the notice that gave her 48 hours to move on.

“It was another day in the transitory life of Safe Ground Sacramento, people for whom the most important information is what the weather will bring and how long they might stay in one place.

“The loosely organized group of homeless people who camp together for safety, and increasingly for homeless advocacy, has been under pressure in recent weeks to move off the north-of-downtown stretch of the American River Parkway because of complaints from area residents and bicycle trail users.

"We've moved three times in the last two weeks," a tearful Peggysue Peterson said to no one in particular. "Do we not have a right to live?"

“Dusk settled over the camp on this recent night as those who had received the notices discussed what to do. A dog chased a jack rabbit through camp and out again. A man ate a frozen pizza from the package.

“Peterson, 47, came to Sacramento from Spokane, Wash. She said she spent three months with family, then ended up in a sleeping bag in front of the Union Gospel Mission.

"My sisters and I are like oil and water," she explained.

“Rickey Edwards, 42, is an Air Force veteran who carried gold panning equipment and said he suffers from bipolar disorder.

“Dale Jones, 56, grew up in Detroit and ran away from institutions deeming him incorrigible.

“They all see Safe Ground – which bans drugs, alcohol and violence – as a respite from the loneliness of homelessness. But, as an organized group, they have been targeted, along with other illegal campers, by those who want homeless people off the parkway.”