While massive wildfires in California make headlines, the increase in fires around homeless encampments doesn’t receive the same attention. Sacramento endures this alarming trend with other major cities, including Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose.
Sacramento’s 2022 homeless count found 9,278 unsheltered people in the county. Despite massive taxpayer investments, the numbers continue to move in the wrong direction. The county had 5,570 homeless in 2019, and 2,538 in 2013.
During the past decade, encampment-related fires grew with the homeless population. An April 2022 report by the Sacramento Sierra Club notes the Sacramento Fire Department responded to 536 encampment fires between 2013 and 2019, an average of 89 a year. The report cited 156 encampment fires in 2021.
“Kate was my sister, but also my close friend. We lived a mile apart and walked several times a week in Land Park with our dogs. And, as of that fateful day last year, my friend is not here anymore. That will be with me forever,” Dan Tibbitts says.
Kate Tibbitts was raped and murdered last September in her home on 11th Avenue. Her dogs Molly and Jenny were killed. Her house was torched.
The next day police arrested a homeless man named Troy Davis for parole violations and warrants. Murder and rape charges were added when investigators linked Davis to Kate’s death.
A history of assault, battery and drug charges follows Davis from at least 2013. The parolee was arrested for car theft three months before Kate was killed. But California’s zero-bail policy put him back on the streets almost immediately.
As most Sacramento middle-schoolers celebrate the lazy days of summer, a few fortunate students are beginning a life-changing journey.
Breakthrough Sacramento, an educational nonprofit, operates a middle school summer academy taught by college students. After closing in 2020 under the pandemic and reopening with a hybrid model in 2021, the program is back in full force for its 28th year in Sacramento.
As I was checking out of the neighborhood Rite Aid the other day, I noticed a young man fill a small cart mostly with liquor bottles and walk past the waiting line and out the door. A man in line loudly pointed this out to the clerk. She shrugged and said, “Yep, it happens all day long, every day. They know they can steal without any penalty. They fire us if we try to do anything about it.”
A reader had just written me about witnessing the same situation at the same J Street store while eating ice cream cones with his kids. He said his children were aghast. He noted three nearby Rite Aid stores face closure. The locations on Folsom Boulevard and in Midtown have already closed. The Alhambra location was in process of shutting down. And the J Street location just had an armed robbery.
Law enforcement is perhaps the highest risk profession in our country. With the goal to make it home safe each day, officers face danger and risk from the unpredictability they encounter with every call. As a mother of a former police officer, I know the worry doesn’t end with the officer. It extends to family and friends.
Placer County Deputy Paul Solbos founded Warriors Always Ready, a nonprofit that provides high-quality physical and mental training for first responders and veterans through his Code3 Brazilian jiu-jitsu program.
Solbos’ inspiration was a call for service that put him in serious doubt he would make it home safe. His story begins like so many tragic law enforcement stories.
In May 2019, I wrote my first article on the tragedy of homeless people living on our streets. The column was titled “Is Sacramento Dying?” It was based on the documentary film “Seattle Is Dying.”
The film was produced by Seattle TV station KOMO in 2018. It begins with a bold thesis: This is about an idea. For a city that has run out of them. What if Seattle is dying? Can it ever recover?
The column was the most widely shared article on our website—shared thousands of times. Many readers feared our city was following Seattle’s course, driven by a lack of civic leadership.
The response helped me recognize the inadequacy of Sacramento media coverage. Homeless problems were not being seriously discussed in 2019. At Inside, we vowed to publish news, viewpoints, ideas and solutions in every issue moving forward.