Sacramento County Considers Tying Homeless Enforcement To Extreme Weather Alerts

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento County supervisors are considering a new “no camping” ordinance aimed at moving homeless encampments ahead of extreme weather events.

It would trigger law enforcement to legally move the homeless from areas with wildfire and flood risk areas during severe weather alerts issued by the county Office of Emergency Services or the National Weather Service.

The proposal comes following years of concerns over grass fires set along the American River Parkway and after holes were found in Sacramento-area levees dug by the homeless.

Randy Smith is a clean-up volunteer who has taken lots of ugly Sacramneto waterway snapshots, including photos of needles he’s found following storm surges stuck high above creek levels.

“And they get deposited in the tree branches, and over our head and all that,” Smith said. 

Besides extreme weather events, the Sacramento County proposal calls for a ban on camping from within 1,000 feet of overnight shelters.

Attorney Mark Merin is a homeless advocate who has filed claims against the City of Sacramento’s homeless enforcement policies and received settlements. He said the county needs to concentrate on adding affordable housing, not on enforcement.

“Well the shelters are full immediately,” Merin said. “You erect a shelter, it’s full, and the people who are drawn there hoping to get in. Now you’re penalizing them for trying to get into the shelter, saying, ‘Oh no, you can’t be that close,’ and so it doesn’t make any sense.

“The county was sitting back and wasn’t a major problem, but now it seems like the county is saying, ‘Come sue us,’ and guess what, we’re going to do it.”

The proposal was introduced Tuesday. County supervisors asked staff to return later this summer with more details.