Monday, November 2, 2009

Safe Ground's core homeless leaders paid off with motel vouchers

At a press conference in the open, between the old and new buildings at the City Hall complex, the mayor announced that the between 20 and 25 homeless people at the core of the Safe Ground movement will be staying at a motel together for the winter period, which runs from about mid-November until the end of March.

This "voucher" program to house the Safe Ground core people together for the chilly months will cost between forty and fifty thousand dollars, paid for by the city and county and private or nonprofit entities.

Doing the math, I come up with this...
I was told early this morning at the Friendship Park gate that the count of people was 22. So let us say there are 22 people at a cost of $44,000 for 4½ months. 4½ months is about 135 days. 22 times 135 equals 2970 nights' stays. $44,000 divided by 2970 equals $14.81/night. Very, very reasonable.  BUT, that does not include the cost of breakfast and dinner and other sundries that come with shelter space in winter.
It was futher announced, by the mayor, that he hopes that Safe Ground [its meaning here being a legal homeless encampment] will continue to be explored and planned with the hope that there will be political will in the city and county for a legal encampment come next April (which comes immediately after the area's chilly period).

I do hate being The Cynic, but things get a little rotten when the self-annointed movement leaders start getting things for themselves, leaving the population they are supposedly leading lagging behind.

In talking about Safe Ground leaders, I've heard the comparison with Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement. Note that Rosa Parks wasn't bought off by being given the right to sit shotgun on the bus with a vague promise that in six-months' time other Blacks might get some better seats on the bus. Ms. Parks remained at the same level as the other Black citizens of Montgomery. And there is one thing you can say for sure, Ms. Rosa Parks wouldn't have had it any other way.

After the motel-arrangement announcement, John Krainz and Tracie Rice-Bailey each spoke. John was eloquent as he often is and very congratulatory toward the mayor. Tracie likewise was effusive in thanking the mayor and being hopeful for the future of the Safe Ground effort.

Rather obviously, the payoff for not whining about Safe Ground through the winter is that the leaders get the comforts of motel rooms for an expanse of time. Come next April, the mayor will be able to say that he did all he could, but the set opinions of city and county officials will remain as they are and a legal homeless encampment will not materialize.

In the latter part of the news conference, the mayor spoke of an event planned for MLK Park on Nov. 5 which will introduce a three-year plan to secure permanent and transitional housing for homeless Sacramentans. The effort will be one that will show Sacramento leading the nation in its policies to address homelessness, the mayor said.

With all the hoopla and hope — and I would guess that with it all a lot of good will come — transitional and "real" housing will begin to replace tents and shelters.  My bet is that Safe Ground, as an effort to get a legal encampment, will fade fast away. After all, its leaders have proved to be focused on themselves; they'll easily forget.

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Other media with stories about the mayor's 11/2 press conference:
"Homeless 'Safe Ground' Group Promised Place to Stay" by C. Johnson for News10
"City, Homeless Group Agree To Terms," by KCRA, channel 3

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