Homelessness is on the rise in Rio Lind/Elverta, and Sacramento County in general. The issue is evident just by keeping your eyes peeled while taking a short drive in any direction. Not to mention it being constantly talked about in public meetings, newspapers, radio, and the dinner table.
The reasons for this include many things out of our control, such as: rising housing costs, stagnant incomes, savings rates, and regional and national trends. But the fact remains that data shows homelessness in Sacramento County is rising faster than our neighboring counties, with a 30% increase in the past two years. Some counties that have huge borders with Sacramento, like Yolo and San Joaquin, have even decreased their homeless population in the same timeframe. Contra Costa County, our only neighboring county with a comparable population, decreased by an impressive 20%. This indicates to me that something we are doing locally is negatively impacting things, and I want to take a moment to explain to you what I think that “something” is.
It all revolves around the settlement of a class action lawsuit against Sacramento County in 2010. In the lawsuit which Sacramento County lost, it was found that homeless camps were being removed without enough warning being given to the homeless to secure their belongings before they were destroyed. As a result, Sacramento County must do two things that other jurisdictions do not. First, we must give homeless camps 48 hours to move their camp. Second, if they do not move their camp within 48 hours, we must place their possessions in storage for 90 days and allow them to pick them up.
While the implications of these two stipulations may not seem negative at first glance, they have some major repercussions. Because we have laws that are less strict than every county surrounding ours, the following is an example of a scenario that plays out time and time again. Sheriffs in a neighboring county find a homeless camp with nobody in it, so they immediately dispose of the camp and clean up the area. The homeless individual returns to find their camp destroyed, and then hear rumors that Sacramento County won’t throw away their items. In fact, Sacramento County is so lenient that as long as they return to their camp every 48 hours they have nothing to worry about, and even if they don’t return within 48 hours they can always go recover their items from storage. So naturally, they move to Sacramento County and end up staying.
While this is all bad news for Rio Linda/Elverta, it does not mean things are hopeless. It simply means we have to be a more vigilant and proactive community to earn the results neighboring counties are achieving. When you see a homeless camp, report it by calling 3-1-1 or by downloading the phone application by going to www.311.saccounty.net. If you want to donate your money, please refrain from giving it straight to the homeless, and instead give it to organizations that help them improve their situation. This way you can ensure your money is going towards putting a roof over their head or helping connect them with mental health support. If you want a list of great nonprofits to choose from please contact my office.
Sue Frost represents the 4th District, which includes all or part of the communities of Citrus Heights, Folsom, Orangevale, Antelope, Rio Linda, Elverta, Gold River, Rancho Murieta, North Highlands, Carmichael, Foothill Farms and Fair Oaks.