“With the safety net long ago shredded – public housing eliminated, community mental health facilities closed – the unemployed and evicted are joining the ranks of the homeless individuals and families who drag their few belongings from one temporary camp to another as law enforcement moves them up and out in a perennial pursuit of a failed policy that promises no rest for the weary, no sanctuary for the homeless in Sacramento County.”With stirring words, like the above, attorney Mark E. Merin made the case for ‘safe ground’ for Sacramento county homeless folk in a guest editorial published in the Bee. The “My View” editorial, “Tent cities can offer answer to homelessness” appeared the day before the Safe Ground March and rally in César Chávez Park.
Merin is a long-time advocate for the rights of the homeless and is the lead plantiff attorney in a long-simmering class-action lawsuit, Lehr et al v. Sacramento, that seeks compensation for belongings of homeless people confiscated by city and county police, and that presses the city and county for a way out of the roust-and-ruin policies now in place that criminalize homelessness.
Merin wrote for “the immediate need … for a moratorium on citations and arrests for camping and support by the city and county for a new approach [that would allow destitute people to survive in Sacramento].” He specifically called for protected “tent cities” on unutilized land or vacated warehouses that would act as encampments for homeless folk. Other America metropolises have succeeded using this plan, he tells us.
This change in policy would “alleviate the suffering of hundreds,” Merin wrote.