Sacramento District Attorney sues California’s capital city over failure to clean up homeless encampments


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Sacramento’s district attorney has filed a lawsuit against California’s capital city over failure to clean up homeless encampments.

Sacramento District Attorney Thein Ho says his office has asked the city to enforce sidewalk obstruction laws and create additional professionally operated campsites.

He announced the lawsuit Tuesday during a news conference in Sacramento.

Hu said the city was witnessing a “collapse into chaos” and “an erosion of daily life.”

Sacramento County had nearly 9,300 homeless people in 2022, based on data from the annual Point in Time count. That’s up 67% from 2019. Nearly three-quarters of the county’s homeless population is homeless.

Tent camps for the homeless have clearly grown in cities across the United States but especially in California, which is home to them. Nearly a third of people are unhoused in the country.

The district attorney in August threatened to file charges against city officials if they did not implement the changes within 30 days.

At the time, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said he was politicizing the issue rather than being a partner with the city.

The city added 1,200 emergency shelter beds, issued ordinances to protect sidewalks and schools and created more affordable housing, Steinberg said in a statement. He further added that the city is trying to avoid “the futile trap of endlessly moving people from one building to another.”

He said people’s frustrations were “completely justified” but described Ho’s actions as a “performative distraction”.

“The city needs real partnership from regional leaders, not politics and lawsuits,” he said.

Ho, who was elected in 2022 after pledging on the campaign trail to address the city’s homelessness crisis, said he has asked the city to share real-time data on available shelter beds with law enforcement.

“This is a rare opportunity — a rare opportunity — for us to enact meaningful and effective ways to get seriously and chronically unhoused people off the streets,” Ho said.

He said he supports a variety of solutions including enforcing existing laws and creating new programs to provide services to people facing addiction or mental health issues. He said he supports a statewide bond measure that would move toward building more treatment facilities. Voters will vote on the measure next year.

The dispute between the attorney general 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 preventing the city from clearing homeless encampments During extreme heat. That order has now been lifted but the group wants to extend it.

An attorney for the Homeless Coalition also filed a complaint with the state bar association this month, saying Ho abused his authority by pushing the city to evacuate the encampments when the order was issued.

His press conference included testimony from residents who said the city is not providing the resources needed to deal with homelessness.

Critics have said the camps are unsanitary and illegal, and prevent children, the elderly and the disabled from using public spaces such as sidewalks. They say allowing people to deteriorate in the open air is neither humane nor compassionate.

But homeless advocates say they cannot ease the crisis without more investment in affordable housing and services, and that camping bans and encampment overruns are unnecessarily traumatizing the homeless.

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