Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mayor's Homeless Task Force envisions legal homeless encampment next spring

A World Shelter U‑Dome, the likely tent/abode that will be used if Stepping Stone manifests, beginning in April, 2010.
There are two realms of news today relating to places for the Sacramento homeless to sleep. Both have to do with the mayor, Kevin Johnson. And both have to do with the word(s) Safeground/ SafeGround/ Safe Ground, an idea, or constellation of ideas, that suffers from a bit of a branding problem.

The first bit of news is that Mayor Johnson will be spending the night with members of a newly established group of campers called SafeGround, who live in a clandestine encampment that fully disappears every morning. The mayor will be bringing the media with him. Specifically, KTXL Fox40 News will be sending a reporter and film crew. Many other news organizations are likely also to come.

The purpose behind the mayor's effort hasn't been stated expressly, but it is believed that the mayor is wanting to demonstrate his concern for this segment of Sacramentans who are suffer egregiously in today's economy. It is appreciated within the city's wider homeless community that the mayor has taken an interest in SafeGround, a non-legal encampment of about 50 persons that is striving earnestly to be very clean, self sustaining and alcohol-and-drug free. SafeGround may be a beta effort that will inform the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness what can be achieved in creating a legal, workable neighborhood-friendly homeless camp.

The Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness – led by Andrew Rosskamm, who is at work for the mayor for a few months as part of a Harvard fellowship; and which includes John Kraintz, a homeless homelessness leader; and Joan Burke of Loaves & Fishes; among others – has been researching the costs, location and full array of factors in the creation of a legal encampment that is being called Stepping Stone, that will be a 50-member community living, most likely, in U‑Domes [see picture, above]. It is envisioned that Stepping Stone might be established in April, 2010. A potential serious obstacle in the creation of Stepping Stone is security at the site, and its cost. Outside security could cost $218,000/year, or more, and would be, by far, the encampment's greatest expenditure. Homeless people and homeless-help leaders – who met this morning at Loaves & Fishes' Delaney Center under the auspices of SHOC, Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee – are eager for an eventual legal homeless encampment that provides its own security to greatly reduce costs. With outside security, the encampment's per-bed-per-night costs would exceed $22. Without outside security, total per-bed-per-night costs could be less than $10.

At the Delaney Center meeting this morning the efforts to aid the current SafeGround encampment and to further the manifestation of a safe ground [i.e., legal] homeless encampment were discussed. No formal important decisions were made.

The mission and goals of the group are to achieve the establishment of a legal, self-governing encampment that has potable water, garbage and sanitation services; to further the decriminalization of homelessness; and to seek livable housing circumstances for all those now without basic housing accommodations.

The "Safeground movement" has three intertwined groups that are each meeting weekly to, collectively, push forward the movement's goals:

  • SHOC Homeless Leadership Project effort to achieve safe ground: An effort to inform and involve the homeless community in activity that seeks the movement's goals.
  • SafeGround Campaign Advisory Committee: A diverse group of supporters, elected homeless leaders and a legal team that work on support, coordination and planning of the campaign. Interest focuses on funding, public outreach and campground logistics.
  • SafeGround Campaign Steering Committee: "Homeless leaders and Elders [elected resident officials of the current SG encampment] are essential [members]. Main activity is to handle detailed planning for SafeGround Campaign, both political strategies and public relations as well as internal campground siting, logistics and defense."

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