Police Shutting Down New Sacramento Tent City

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, July 10, 2009

Around a hundred people have lived there since the Winter Shelter at Cal Expo closed July 1st.  That includes some of the homeless who camped at the big Tent City along the American River earlier this year.  But many say they don’t know where they’ll go.


Tent City Version 2.0 is smaller – in both size and population.  The first one sprawled for blocks along the river.  This one is nestled on a narrow plot of grass and dirt between a Volunteers of America Homeless Shelter and a gospel mission.  VOA counted about 50 tents and 100 people.  By the time I got there Thursday, some had already left – and others were starting to pack. 
This is the second Tent City for Lloyd Chaffins – and he says it’s his last.  Chaffins says he just wants to be left alone.
Chaffins: “I don’t wanna have to get up and move every other day.  Cause I got a lot of stuff to pack up every day if I do that.  So I’d just as soon find a spot that’s covered with trees and camp there.” 
But others, like Eric Wymer who goes by the nickname “Cowboy,” are holding out hope for a legal campsite – what advocates call a “safe ground.”
Wymer: “Where people that are homeless can come and feel like a community – like family.  They can feel safe.  They can feel they ain’t gonna get mugged or raped, whatever.” 
But the city says no – camping is illegal in Sacramento.  Earlier this week, police told residents to move by Friday.  Here’s spokesman Norm Leong:
Leong: “Our hope is the majority, if not all, will voluntarily leave.  If not, we’ll conduct enforcement of ordinance for illegal camping.”
And if the campers just start up a new tent city somewhere else?
Leong: “The three-day notice is a courtesy.  We don’t have to give any notice.” 
Instead, city and county officials hope to arrange permanent housing options.  So far, they’ve found roofs for around 35 original Tent City residents.  They’re hoping to double that in the next couple months.  Meantime, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has a task force researching whether a Tent City makes sense.  His office says it expects a recommendation in September