Sacramento Mayor Plans to Shut Down Tent City

March 19, 2009 8:03:37 PM PDT
The growing number of homeless in our state capital has created a string of tent cities along the American River. On Thursday, the Sacramento mayor ordered those tents be removed, but he's not kicking them into the streets.

"Unsafe. Unsanitary. Irresponsible on our part," said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

In the end, California's capital city looked bad from the national and international attention it had gotten for the growing number of homeless people living in the shadow of Downtown Sacramento. Rookie Mayor Johnson had to put his idea of legalizing tent cities on the back burner and now aims to close it down.

"When Oprah and her crew came in, they shined a very bright spotlight on our particular situation. We looked at it as an opportunity to act and to do something in a way that's very proactive," said Mayor Johnson.

The still developing plan is to find housing, like the state fairgrounds, for the estimated 150 residents. Many can speak of the tough time they're having finding a job in this recession. This area had grown in recent months because shelters were maxed out.

Reaction here in tent city is mixed. Many are skeptical of the plan; while others can't wait to have a home indoors.

"I'm too old to be doing this," said Carol Carlile, Tent City resident.

Carlile is hopeful. The former in-home care worker has been living here since 2007.

"It would mean a lot. I would be able to take a shower or bath whenever I wanted, whether it's in the morning or evening. I'd able to cook a meal," said Carlile.

Others say they've heard this before and don't want to be forced out with a place to go first.

"If they make us all leave we're going to the Capitol. We're going to pitch tents at the Capitol," said Eric Williams, a tent city resident.

The financially strapped city hall admits it hasn't found the funding yet for what's expected to be a costly plan. The problem began in the first place because there is no money to expand existing shelters. If the city successfully closes tent city, that may not be the end of it. Mayor Johnson still likes the idea of legalizing it.

"I do think a tent city, potentially, could be a viable option," said Johnson.

Mayor Johnson recently took California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to the area and the governor promised state help. The goal is to have tent city taken down by the end of April.

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