People pushed shopping carts, toted laundry baskets and even drove the occasional pick-up truck as they struggled to move their belongings from a homeless encampment on Stockton Boulevard on Wednesday. Sacramento County garbage trucks arrived as sheriff's workers in orange jumpsuits began loading-up trash: rotten food, dirty clothes, and broken furniture.
The eviction of homeless campers from the site near Fruitridge Road ends a process that began six months ago. Sheriff’s deputies posted notices of the intent to evict the campers on January 28, at the request of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, and fencing was erected near the site.
On Wednesday, Steven Ford sorted through a friend's belongings, which included stacks of old bicycle tires. He says his friend was already setting up another camp nearby.
"There's a creek that zigzags through the city. A lot of people go over there and post up there for a bit. Other people are trying to get housing, get on lists, get into shelters," Ford said of his neighbors’ plans after leaving the encampment.
He added that he might return home to Michigan if he can convince his girlfriend to go; he doesn’t want to go alone.
Sacramento County says five people out of the approximately 100 who lived at the Stockton Boulevard encampment have accepted offers of housing, mental health and other social service assistance.
Tess Deterding with the sheriff's department says anyone who stays after Wednesday risks being cited and forcibly removed.
"We're giving them an opportunity to collect the items and get off the property,” she said. “If that doesn't happen, my understanding is the next notice would be giving them a notice of trespass, meaning they acknowledge they can no longer be on these premises. In the future, if they are contacted again, they would be subject to arrest for trespassing."
On Wednesday, two demonstrators were cited and released for failing to disperse after they attempted to block deputies from entering the property. One person who lived at the encampment was arrested for a probation violation and for resisting arrest.
Deterding says the department has received multiple complaints from neighborhood businesses.
James Musgrave, with the nearby Beck’s Shoe Emporium, says he’s seen crime and drug use near the encampment. “A lot of our customers are elderly customers and they’re afraid to come in here and every day, all we hear is, ‘What the hell’s going on over there?’ It’s not a good environment for business,” he said.
Mark Chacon, a volunteer for Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, says he was busy this morning trying to help homeless campers with pets. "We have one person back there who's going to jail. His dogs are going to the county [animal control department]. We had a vet that came on and took home two dogs that needed fostering," he said.
Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency claims it is not behind the evictions. An SHRA representative was on site Wednesday, and the county and the sheriff’s department both say they were approached by SHRA with requests to begin the eviction process.
There are two adjoining lots at Stockton Boulevard. SHRA owns the lot at 5716 Stockton Boulevard, though the land is officially titled to the Housing Authority of the County of Sacramento. The Sacramento County Redevelopment Successor Agency owns the other lot, at 5700 Stockton Boulevard, which SHRA expects the county to turn over control, although the county says talks have not yet begun, although there is a possibility it could happen this year.
The agency hopes to find a developer to build affordable housing and retail units on the site, but has not designed a project or put one out to bid.
The land was previously the site of the San Juan Motel, which was demolished in April 2010.
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