Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Safe Ground community, comin' soon?

Safe Ground logo
The group “Safe Ground, Sacramento” may finally get a plot of ground that is safe for the creation of a Safe Ground homeless camp or village of some sort. City Council members – several of them, at least – and the Sac Bee Editorial Board have given their winks and nods of encouragement to suggest that after eight years in the wilderness, formerly-unsheltered homeless people will have a community where they can exist without being hassled by the police.

The particulars about the community – what it will be like; how it will be run; where it will be; whether it will be temporary – are all matters to be worked out. Everything is in the air at this point, but the Safe Ground Board, in the person of Attorney Mark Merin, let it be known a couple weeks ago that SG would like to push things along such that many determinations – including choosing many of the homeless people who will be initial inhabitants of the community – will be made before the end of April.  Members of the Sacramento City Council’s homeless subcommittee suggested at a meeting on the evening of Leap Year Day that their timeline was less expedient.

For my part, if the City Council is wanting to “do this thing,” the quicker the better. I do think that it must be mandatory that housed citizens who reside proximate to where the first legal/authorized Safe Ground will be -- and nearby business owners, too -- must be given a chance to have their say about the matter.  I think that these housed citizens and business owners may have very valid concerns about the value of their property taking a dive or seeing a decline in customers. Everything should be done to prevent the Safe Ground camp/village from being a blight.  Likely the community/camp should be given a limited period of time in its initial location – say, two years – before it is moved elsewhere.

The Sacramento Bee Board Editorial on Friday suggested that Safe Ground exist just as a pilot program for the summer, limited to a few dozen adult campers in tents. The Board Ed said, as well, that “drugs and alcohol should be banned inside the camp, but pets should be allowed. Sex offenders and people who are prone to violence also should be banned.”

At any camp where there are no children, I don’t see the need to ban sex offenders. The Marcos Breton fantasy from about five years ago that at homeless camps pedophiles drag children into tents to commit rape and mayhem comes from Breton’s furtive imagination. [Better might be to keep pedophiles who are former basketball players from going to City Council meetings.]

It is my understanding [that is, perhaps, mistaken] that registered sex offenders get in trouble for actions that are minor violations of their parole or for having materials that they shouldn’t have or for briefly being where they shouldn’t be, and rarely for new activity abusing children.  Besides, the other residents of a Safe Ground village or camp will be quick to react to any circumstance when a child comes into the camp.

I asked a Right 2 Rest activist his opinion on the matter of pedophiles being residents of a homeless camp. He wrote me, “Having pedophiles in homeless camps is a bad idea. It would be an unsafe environment for them as many in the homeless community are very passionate on the topic and may try to harm the individual.”


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