Homeless camper Will Lovell at a City Hall rally Thursday
The Sacramento City Council is taking a civil rights lawyer to court for allowing several dozen homeless people to camp on his property. It’s the latest move in a standoff that began when the city closed the tent city near the American River.
City officials have grown increasingly frustrated with what they call an illegal campsite that sprouted up a couple weeks ago in Sacramento’s Alkali Flats neighborhood. Police have already cited and arrested some of the campers; advocates say they’ll challenge Sacramento’s anti-camping ordinance in court. Now, the city’s lawsuit has opened a new legal front. Gustavo Martinez is with the City Attorney’s office.
Martinez: “Our focus is not to penalize or hurt homeless. It’s to protect a whole neighborhood that is being injured and harmed by all the odors, the security threats, people coming and going and the litter being strewn on their property.”
But the campers disagree.
Chanting: "Safe Ground! Safe Ground!"
Around 50 homeless people and their advocates marched around City Hall Thursday. They’re continuing to call for a “safe ground,” a legal place to spend the night. They say their camp site on civil rights lawyer Mark Merin’s property is alcohol-, drug-, and violence-free. And they blame the city for not offering them anywhere to sleep ever since police shut down the tent city and a winter shelter closed for the summer. Will Lovell was one of the campers arrested last week.
Lovell: “I have nowhere else to go, and when we leave here, I’m going back to Safe Ground. We’re not leaving. The city council needs to realize that what they’re doing as of now is inhumane.”
A Sacramento County judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order, which would have immediately shut the camp site down. Instead, the two sides will appear in court later this month.