Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Moveable Sleep


I received an email, today, from Joan Burke, Director of Advocacy, of Loaves & Fishes, signed by both Ms. Burke and attorney Mark Merin. The gist of it is this paragraph that was in bold in the center of the text:
We are asking owners of empty lots, parking lots and any other unused space to permit homeless campers to pitch tents on their property for ONE NIGHT. The “campers” will clean up the property and leave it in better condition than they found it; a porta-potty will be provided. The “campers” will then move to the next property owner’s property where they will pitch their tents, again, for ONE NIGHT.
By having homeless campers be constantly on the move in a rotation of camping sites, they don't break the anti-camping ordinance. Unhappily, this is perhaps the only way left for unsheltered homeless people to stay within the law. [Shelter space is tight! Unconscionably, the police rousted campsites throughout the city on the 11th just before the big storm, putting people's lives in disarray. I, myself, couldn't get a shelter bed and was "on the street" on the two rainy nights of Oct 12th-13th and 13th-14th. I was probably in violation of the law.]

For more info or to allow use of your property for this effort, call or email Mark Merin at 916-443-6911, mark@markmerin.com or Joan Burke at 916-446-0874, advocate4loaves@yahoo.com .
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Update 10/15 @ 2:30pm: According to a Bee article today:
Sacramento police spokeswoman Officer Laura Peck said the department has been working with community leaders and homeless advocates to address the issue [of camping space for homeless people]. …

"The intent of the camping ordinance is to prevent camping within the city limits," Peck said. "If the community provides locations for these folks to camp and they don't stay in the same location for more than one day, they are still violating the intent of that law.

"However, it is not as though we are not compassionate to the problem. It is not as though [we] are going to go out and target these things."

… [Joan Burke] said that the ordinance states a person cannot camp in one place for more than 24 consecutive hours.

"It's pretty explicit."
I believe I understand from the article that Joan Burke's reading of the ordinance is that it is crafted explicitly in such a way that, whether or not there was any underlying intent, the law amounts to just a definative rule that homeless campers may strive to satisfy.  If they satisfy the rule of the ordiance, meeting the 24-hour limitation per location, their action in camping continually in Sacramento would be legal.

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