SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — In 29 days Sacramento will start clearing homeless camps from sections of levees and other parts of town.
The law is a move that businesses fear could drive homeless communities off the levees and on to city streets. Now city leaders are scrambling to find out how they can push this camping ban through, and enforce it, without breaking the law.
William Mercer has lived along the levee for 10 years. He says it’s the only place he’s really called home. Now, he says he’ll have to find somewhere else to go.
Mercer and thousands of others sleeping outside are being forced to move after the Sacramento City Council banned camping within 25 feet of riverfront levees in the city. The city is hoping it will protect “critical infrastructure” and stop fires and floods.
Vice Mayor Jeff Harris is a proponent of the law. He says the damage to infrastructure is a matter of life or death for everyone.
“It would be devastating, it would bring the city to its knees financially, but it would also mean loss of life,” he says.
Now that the law passed, the city is looking toward enforcement. Reformation District 1000 and The American River Control District are tasked with maintaining the levees, but city leaders say code enforcement will work alongside the fire department, the city’s Impact team and the county for physical enforcement.
Harris says he’s not sure whether the city is staffed enough to make it happen.
“Are we staffed well enough? I would say generally, no, but we can do a lot,” Harris said.
But, he says the city can move to allocate more resources to this cause.
“But right now, we don’t even have the tools to start,” Harris said.
Harris says the law, which makes it illegal for police to force homeless people to move without a place for them to stay, also makes it difficult for the city to enforce this ordinance. He says the answer comes from creating shelter space.
“When we encounter people who may be doing bad things to the levees, or starting fires on the parkway, we can then say, ‘we’ve got a shelter bed,’ and it’s really not optional,” Harris said.
The new ordinance makes it illegal for anybody to keep personal property near the levees or in wildfire areas. Police can take property and violators could face a penalty between $250 and $25,000.