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Homeless Riders Suggest They Might Not Be Welcome On Public Transit Despite Assurances From Agencies

Randol White / Capital Public Radio

Myles Gould (middle) and Derek Anderson (right) stand next to their belongings stacked in plastic containers after breaking down their campsite on 20th Street in Sacramento's Midtown neighborhood.

Randol White / Capital Public Radio

Myles Gould had a home for more than 20 years. Now, he’s breaking down his tent in a Midtown parking lot. Gould organizes his belongings in plastic storage containers, stacked three high on a cart. But when he tries to load his stuff onto a Regional Transit train or bus to get to his doctor’s appointments, he says he’s harassed.

“They’ll tell me that this is not a moving van,” he said of RT workers. “They say that, since my disability doesn’t consist of a wheelchair, that they refuse to give me service.”

This summer, Sacramento’s homeless community will lean on public transit to beat the heat — but some homeless riders say they don’t always feel welcome.

But spokesperson Wendy Williams says that while RT does not discriminate, there are rules.

“People are free to bring on board their belongings, we just ask that they collapse their carts and that they take their belongings and put them on their lap,” Williams said.

For homeless riders, trains and buses could be the only shelter they have all day.

“It’s definitely a way to get out of the wet and the cold, even the heat sometimes, you know, get in the air conditioning,” said Derek Anderson, who is camping with Gould and says he sometimes hesitates to ride because of passenger reactions.

“They get irritated if you want to sit down next to them. You know, they’ll give the side and the dirty looks and all that kind of stuff,” he said.

“We don’t even smell,” Gould said.

“We go to the YMCA and bathe every day,” Anderson added.

Williams says they should feel welcome: “We don’t discriminate. All we ask is that you have valid fare, and you are welcome on our busses and you are welcome on our trains.”

The guys say they would like signs on transit that say homeless people are welcome.

“We’re someone’s son, we’re someone’s daughter, you know, we’re someone’s father,” Anderson said. “Just think about it that way. We’re all people, you know.”

CapRadio is joining nearly 100 news organizations across the country to focus on stories about our homeless community as part of the U.S. Homeless Project.

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