Residents at a large Sacramento homeless encampment called Camp Resolution are celebrating a first-of-its-kind lease that allows them to remain on a city-owned property until all have obtained permanent housing.
Advocates for unhoused residents say the deal is unprecedented in the Sacramento region and possibly nationwide. But now that it’s in place, supporters of the camp say they are focused on two key goals: securing permanent housing and urging the city and county to extend similar legal protections to encampments across the region.
They called this week for the region to place a moratorium on law enforcement “sweeps” that forcibly remove people from camps.
“We know that the city of Sacramento, Sacramento County, the state of California have sufficient monetary resources to house every man, woman and child in the state of California,” said Anthony Prince, an attorney with the California Homeless Union who negotiated Camp Resolution’s lease. “It’s disgraceful that they’re not allocating those funds.”
Camp Resolution’s lease comes six months after the city threatened to clear residents from the site, which sits on a partially paved lot at Arden Way and Colfax Street near Woodlake in North Sacramento. Under the agreement, Sacramento will provide up to 33 city-owned trailers for residents and allow the camp to become a self-governing site.
Camp Resolution in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022.Andrew Nixon / CapRadio
A group of camp leaders, called the resident council, will create rules regarding maintenance and security for the site and determine how to admit new residents as spaces become available. This operations plan must be approved by the city.
In addition, the resident council will develop a “good neighbor policy,” to ensure the camp does not become a draw for people illegally camping in the surrounding area.
The lease does not require the provision of mental health or substance use treatment resources. But efforts will be made to connect residents who request those services with help, said Crystal Sanchez, president of the Sacramento Homeless Union.
After living at Camp Resolution since last fall, Satearah Murphy says the lease agreement gives her the security to plan for the future.
“I feel more empowered to do something more than just having to camp,” said Murphy, standing outside the site which includes a mix of tents, trailers and RVs surrounded by a black metal fence and banners with messages such as “Housing is a Human Right.”
“Most definitely it makes me feel safer,” Murphy added, noting Camp Resolution is led mostly by women. “I know I have a community of beautiful women behind me who are strong, who are independent and who aren’t afraid to take that extra step to have something different happen in our community.”
Sacramento Homeless Union president Crystal Sanchez, California Homeless Union attorney Anthony Prince and Camp Resolution residents Satearah Murphy and Alaytriya Gregory stand outside the sanctioned encampment in North Sacramento on April 6, 2023.Chris Nichols/CapRadio
Tim Swanson, a city spokesperson, said he could not immediately quantify how many times the city has removed people from homeless encampments this year, or whether those actions have increased. Advocates for unhoused residents said they are rapidly expanding — leading some who are displaced to seek shelter at Camp Resolution, even though it’s at capacity.
“The City of Sacramento remains committed to providing support to its most vulnerable residents while also enforcing its laws and ordinances,” Swanson wrote in an email.
He added that the city responds to requests for service and complaints “by first seeking voluntary compliance” with its laws that govern encampments. He also cited a frequently asked questions document that answers what the city can legally do to address camps on public and private property.
Swanson said the city is not currently negotiating a lease with any other groups of unhoused residents. As Sacramento’s homeless population has soared in recent years, illegal encampments have pushed further into residential and business districts and grown along area freeways and the American River Parkway.
Now, all sides are watching to see how Camp Resolution’s agreement works out.
“The City is viewing this agreement as a pilot project and expects to learn many things from it that can help inform future possible agreements,” Swanson added.
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