DA Sues Sacramento Over 'Collapse Into Chaos'

He says city has failed to take action to get homeless people off the streets
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 19, 2023 4:47 PM CDT
DA Sues Sacramento Over Homeless Encampments
A variety of shelters make up one of the homeless camps along the American River Parkway in Sacramento, Calif.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

A Sacramento prosecutor is suing California's capital city over its failure to clean up homeless encampments. Sacramento District Attorney Thien Ho says his office asked the city to enforce laws around sidewalk obstruction and to create additional professionally operated camping sites. He announced the suit Tuesday during a news conference in Sacramento. Ho said the city is seeing a "collapse into chaos" and an "erosion of every day life," the AP reports. Sacramento County had nearly 9,300 homeless people in 2022, based on data from the annual Point in Time count. That was up 67% from 2019. Roughly three-quarters of the county's homeless population is unsheltered.

Homeless tent encampments have grown visibly in cities across the US but especially in California, which is home to nearly one-third of unhoused people in the country. The prosecutor had threatened in August to file charges against city officials if they didn't implement changes within 30 days. At the time, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said Ho was politicizing the issue instead of being a partner with the city. Ho, elected in 2022 after vowing on the campaign trail to address the city's homelessness crisis, said he's asked the city to share real-time data about available shelter beds with law enforcement.

"This is a rare opportunity ... for us to effectuate meaningful, efficient means of getting the critically, chronically unhoused off the streets," Ho said. Ho said he supports a variety of solutions including enforcement of existing laws and establishing new programs to provide services to people facing addiction or mental health issues. He said he supports a statewide bond measure that would go toward building more treatment facilities. Voters will weigh in on that measure next year. Ho's news conference included testimony from residents who say the city is not providing resources to deal with homelessness.

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The dispute between the district attorney and the city was further complicated by a lawsuit filed by a homeless advocacy group that resulted in an order from a federal judge temporarily banning the city from clearing homeless encampments during extreme heat. That order is now lifted, but the group wants to see it extended. (Read more homeless encampment stories.)

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