Sacramento’s Amended Ballot Measure on Homeless Encampments Pleases No One
The Sacramento City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday to approve an amended ballot measure that would expand the removal of homeless encampments, while also providing more shelter beds for the unhoused.
The “Emergency Shelter and Enforcement Act of 2022” would compel the city to create thousands of new shelter spaces or safe camping sites. Those living on public property who reject offers for available emergency shelter space could then face a misdemeanor.
But the changes approved by the City Council Tuesday require significant county action in order for the measure to be implemented. The county would have to sign a legally-binding agreement laying out its responsibilities to provide mental health, substance abuse, housing, medical, employment, child welfare, and domestic violence services.
“Nobody expects us to cure this but the partnership agreement has to represent, in terms of its financial obligations on both sides, roles and duties on both sides, the real possibility of genuine progress and better results,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
In addition, the amended measure would only mandate emergency shelter for 60% of unhoused people in the city, rather than 60% in the city and county.
Business leaders expressed anger at the changes, which they say “gutted” the initial measure. They had stopped gathering signatures for their own, stricter ballot measure because the city agreed to send the issue to voters.
“Here we are tonight looking to break the promise that was made to voters and reverse course,” said Daniel Conway with Safe and Clean Streets. “And basically tie the city’s leadership to a toxic relationship with the county.”
“I don’t know if any other ballot proponent ever going forward in the future will be ever wiling to negotiate on a ballot initiative,” said Jeffrey Dorso, Senior Vice president for the Sacramento Kings.
Homeless activists are also unhappy with the measure. They oppose the threat of encampment breakups altogether, calling the policy inhumane. They urged the council to rescind the measure, and received support from council members Mai Vang and Katie Valenzuela.
Rick Eaton of Sacramento Area Congregations Together called the measure and the process “the epitome of bad governance.”
It does “nothing to compel any level of services and defines shelter of basically a few square feet of space on a blacktop parking lot,” he said.