Sacramento Mayor To Close TentCity

March 20, 2009

(ChattahBox) — President Obama has faced sizable challenges in his first months in office, and Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento, knows just how that feels.

Aside from the usual conflicts and administration problems with which every new leader must inevitably deal, Mr. Johnson’s most pressing dilemma can be seen from his own office window; A new, and widely unwelcome conurbation of canvas.

The national spread of foreclosures has left thousands of people in need of new homes. In Sacramento, that number is guessed at 300, and it grows almost daily with no sign of an end. In better times, those without homes could move into a shelter, but the Shelters are full and two-hundred women and children are now turned away every day. Their only refuge is this city of tents. And some local people are less than amused.

With no sanitation or plumbing on site, advocacy groups are warning of the potential for cholera. The Mayor has suggested making the tent city permanent, which would allow the addition of the needed facilities, as well as make the residents subject to laws banning drug and alcohol use. “We’ve tried to sweep the homeless under the rug and it’s been our dirty little secret for far too long,” said the Mayor. The city has received $2.3-million from Washington’s stimulus package to help solve this unwelcome demand. Mayor Johnson has also made it clear that neighboring cities, from which a large portion of the tent dwellers came, would be forced to help cover the cost.

But making the tent city legal would require the consent of both the City Council and the Board of Supervisors, and the resistance to such a decision is brutal. Local property owners have fought long and hard to block the idea, apparently afraid that giving their less fortunate peers sanitation and water might reduce the value of the homes they, the owners, still have.

Squatting between two glorious rivers, among some of Sacramento’s most verdant square miles, the reaction to the new neighbors has been less than endearing. There has been a modest encampment in this location for several years, but the recent implosion in housing has created an influx, and with it an eyesore.

Local organizations are trying to help, but the work is unending and sharply uphill, “The numbers of people who need help has gone up dramatically,” says Joan Burke, Director of Advocacy for Loaves & Fishes, a non-profit that help homeless people survive and recover. “The numbers went up 26% in a year,” she said. “People are trying to do what they can. Some tent-city residents are neat and tidy, but many others have problems and do not use latrines”

Ms. Burke and her group are working to persuade Sacramento officials to house the homeless at state campgrounds, where  toilets and water are already plumbed in. Other ideas include converting barns at the Fairgrounds into temporary homes, or inviting local families to sponsor someone who now lives in a shelter and find them a home, thus reducing demand and removing some tents. But nothing is final. And the problem itself just doesn’t slow down.

As one might expect, Sacramento has one of the highest percentages of vacant homes in the country; Over 10% of rentals and 4.8% of owned homes are empty, and some local people less blinded by avarice have proposed using the backlog to bring some relief. Steve Maviglio, Mayor Johnson’s chief aide, says they explored the idea, and the news is not good, “It’s been talked about, but it’s private property and we don’t have the ability to secure it.” But he assured reporters the City continues to explore all ideas.

On Thursday, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said officials plan to close the encampment within the next few weeks and move residents to shelters, apartments, and other accommodations.


One Response to “Sacramento Mayor To Close TentCity”

  1. Reuben Nieves on July 24th, 2010 9:18 pm

    I am concerned over the massive amounts of foreclosures that have plagued this nation, robbed homeowners of their equity and their homes by the predatory lending practices of the banks. Many of these foreclosures are done through “Trustee sales” which do not allow a hearing and a right to a jury trial. I am concerned because the entities seeking this remedy are overwhelmingly federally chartered corporations created under acts of Congress for public and national purposes. Several Supreme Court decisions have ruled that the activities of these type of corporations are governmental not propriety. I am seeking the city of Sacramento based on my research to send a letter to the regulatory authorities—The Office of Thrift Supervision and The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to issue “Cease and Desist Order” to its members to use only Judicial Foreclosure which does not violate the 5th Amendment. Most of these lenders are not making meaningful modifications. They would rather foreclose and affect everyone’s equity downward than modify the loans. If the banks were required to go to court, the homeowner could raise affirmative defenses like unclean hands because most of the loans were inherently predatory because they were not intended to go to term but to be refinanced in a couple of years creating a revenue stream for the banks. The city would be impacted by revenues tied to the sinking value of the homes through lower property taxes thus forcing severe budget shortfalls. If the regulatory authorities failed to comply with the cities demand, then the city could seek a writ of mandamus coupled with a preliminary injunction prohibiting banks from foreclosing until the legal issue as to their right to foreclose non judicially could be established. If there is anyone who can help stop these foreclosures you can contact me at

    Thank you

    Reuben Nieves

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