Homelessness Surges in Sacramento as California Homeless Crisis Continues to Spiral
CA capital sees a staggering 19% increase in homeless population since 2017
Residents and business owners in Sacramento, CA are speaking out about the city's growing rates of homelessness, as the homeless crisis in deep-blue California continues to spiral, with no end in sight.
Recent figures show that the number of homeless people in the Californian capital has risen by a staggering 19 percent in the last two years.
The state itself has an estimated 130,000 people sleeping rough on the streets of California.
And while the problems are well-documented in downtown Los Angeles - where Skid Row is a symbol of the national crisis - or San Francisco - where nearly one person in every hundred lives on the streets - it's Sacramento where the problem is rising the fastest.
In Sacramento, homelessness has shot up by a shocking 19 percent since 2017, putting the problem squarely on the doorstep of he state's Democratic governor Gavin Newsom.
And while pressure is mounting on California officials to tackle the crisis, many fear the problem is just being moved from one area to another, with no real long-term solutions.
Every few days, workers from the California Department of Transportation backed by Highway Patrol officers clean up under the freeways.
They post notices, giving three days' notice and announcing exactly when they are coming and they trash any unattended items.
The homeless people living there merely move their possessions out from the limited protection the highway gives them from the elements to the corner of the street, which is city land.
Within a few minutes, they move back again.
"It's a game of cat and mouse," explains Brian Workman, a homeless man who lives on the Sacramento streets.
"But moving my stuff keeps me in shape. I'm in pretty good shape really."
Highway Patrol Officer Caleb Howard, whose work includes backing up the CalTrans clean-up crew, said they rarely junk stuff that the homeless want.
"If they abandon it, they don't want it," he told the Daily Mail.
"They know when we are coming."
Many of Sacramento's homeless are expected to leave town in the next couple of months.
"They're migratory," says local antique shop owner Steve Sylvester.
"When the weather gets cooler they'll head down toward San Diego."
Sylvester says he recognizes the problem the situation is causing for local businesses.
"We've had two major incidents in the past six weeks," he said.
"We had a young man come in, 95 percent naked — he had underpants on but below where they mattered.
"I asked him to leave and he asked why.
"I said he was upsetting my customers and he wasn't really dressed for shopping.
"As he left, he held out his arm and wiped out a whole china dinner service, worth $300-$400.
"He was a drug addict. He didn't know what he was doing. He was on Planet Zog."
But Sylvester highlighted another troubling problem.
"I know homeless people are being given bus tickets here from both Davis and Reno because they are told Sacramento will look after them," he said.
That allegation — that other cities give one-way tickets to Sacramento to get them out of town — is a common claim around town.
Officer Howard of the Highway Patrol says he knew of people getting tickets from Oregon.
City of Sacramento spokesman Tim Swanson said a Sacramento Bee article from 2013 found that Nevada was busing the homeless away from Las Vegas and one high-profile case had ended in Sacramento, but he did not address the specific allegations.
But he said a recent survey showed 93 percent of Sacramento's homeless either grew up in the city or had lived there long-term before hitting the streets.
"This statistic contradicts the notion that people are coming to Sacramento specifically for services."
Swanson said the city has allocated $15.7million to sheltering the homes this year with another $1million for women, families, and children.
Last year, Mayor Darrell Steinberg asked each of the eight council members to identify a possible area for a shelter within their districts.
HOMELESSNESS UP IN CALIFORNIA'S CAPITAL
Over the last two years, the rate of homelessness in Sacramento has risen by 19 percent.
More than a tenth of that number, 688, were children, and 70 percent were living without shelter.
According to the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, California has the largest homeless population in the country, with 129,972 people living on the streets as of 2018.
The issue has long plagued Los Angeles, which has seen its homeless population rise by a staggering 75 percent in the last six years.
A report released in June this year revealed there are 59,000 people living on the streets across Los Angeles County - a 12 percent increase from 2018 - while the city has seen a 16 percent rise with 36,300.
By comparison, Sacramento, which has an estimated population of 1.5million, seems to have a significantly smaller homeless population, with 5,570, but the problem appears to be growing.