Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bee Story Looks at Situation of Bannon Street Irregulars and Almond Camp

A picture from the Bee story showing the Bannon Street encampment in late November.
A story in today's Sacramento Bee, "Sacramento seeks solutions for its wandering army of homeless" focusses on the Bannon Street Irregulars [the homeless that camp out in front of or near to the Union Gospel Mission] and Almond Camp [near the Blue Diamond processing plant] and their problems and the problem they, and other homeless encampments, pose for the Sacramento police and the city.

The article is beautifully -- even rather poetically -- written, but it takes a harsh attitude toward the predicament of the homeless, at times. Here, an early paragraph from the story, about the Bannon Street Irregulars:
Some of them sprawled on dirty sleeping bags on the sidewalk, waiting their turns for one of the beds inside. Some perched on rickety chairs outside their dome tents, drinking King Cobra and telling stories. Their bicycles and clothes and trash were scattered everywhere. They hardly seemed to notice the large rats that prowled the premises in search of bits of discarded food.
Things can get dirty on Bannon Street, certainly, but the people on the street clean up their messes, too. As for the rats, they live in the greater community and their being around is something the Irregulars are acclimated with; the rats and street people don't directly bother each other, having an intra-species truce.

But Francis House executive director Gregory Bunker, quoted in the article, is certainly right when he says, "This situation is not safe, and it's not sanitary. The city needs to acknowledge that we have a problem, and [the circumstance as it is] is not the answer."

The article mentions a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court that "argues that the city's practice of rousting campers, issuing citations against them for sleeping outside and sometimes destroying their belongings is illegal. The suit proposes, among other things, that the city establish 'high tolerance' campgrounds where law enforcement will allow homeless encampments, acquire one or more vacant lots for 'dignity villages' similar to one in Portland, and develop an indoor 'tent city' where people could live for lengthy periods." More information about the lawsuit which Loaves & Fishes, Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee (SHOC), and Francis House have joined as plaintiffs, can be found at the Homeward Street Journal wikispace.

The article quotes Sacramento policemen's disgruntlement with writing "no camping" tickets to no ultimate effect and their search for a solution to end having dirty, dangerous and visible encampments in the city.

Overall, the high-profile Bee article, written by Cynthia Hubert, a reporter, should have a good effect in raising the consciousness of Sacramento citizens on the nature of homeless-encampment problems and possible solutions.

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