National Spotlight

Sacramento homeless draws attention from broadcaster

June 2019

This is definitely not the kind of publicity Sacramento wants or needs, but the city’s homeless crisis continues to draw national attention. The latest spotlight comes from Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, whose crews recently filmed homeless people in public places around the community. Here’s a transcript on the May 13 broadcast:

Approximately 130,000 people are homeless every night in California. It’s about a quarter of the nation’s total. You’d think the leaders of the state of California be obsessed with fixing this horrifying problem. But they aren’t. They don’t especially seem to care. The state doesn’t come close to having enough homeless shelters so more than two-thirds of the state’s homeless have nowhere to go on a given night.

One reason is the state’s strict building codes and environmental regulations. They block the construction of new shelters, and without enough shelters the homeless encampments and piles of needles are almost impossible to stop. A recent Ninth Circuit Court ruling blocks cops from prosecuting homeless people unless adequate shelter space is available. So you can see there’s a kind of gridlock. And it’s not just a problem in the city of San Francisco; most of the state’s homeless almost live outside of San Francisco or LA. In tonight’s installment of homeless in America we take a look at how bad the crisis has become in California’s forgotten cities.

This neighborhood in East Palo Alto is so close to Facebook’s global headquarters that tech billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook can ride their bikes to it. But the people who live on Bay Road in East Palo Alto aren’t quite as fortunate as their Silicon Valley neighbors. There’s no place in America that better illustrates the massive inequality caused by a booming tech sector of the economy.

On any given night nearly eight of every 10 homeless people live on the streets. One common explanation for rising homelessness is housing prices. As rents go up people are forced onto the streets. But there’s homelessness in poor areas to consider, like Stockton in the Central Valley. The housing downturn in Stockton is to blame in some part–the city filed for municipal bankruptcy in 2012. Current rent prices in some neighborhoods are as low as $680 a month.

And yet our investigation found homeless people all over Stockton; under overpasses, on the highways, along rivers and canals, near downtown and on the outskirts of town.

Drive 50 miles to the north in Sacramento, the state capitol, and things are just as bad–maybe worse. Every public place we visited in Sacramento had homeless people, a bike path along the American River downtown was lined with tents and garbage.

In one neighborhood just north of the city homeless camp out near soup kitchens, and on North B Street the camps go on for more than a mile. What’s striking about the homelessness in Sacramento is how prominent it is. It would be impossible to visit the city and not see it.

There were people living in Cesar Chavez Park, right in the heart of downtown. A multitude of encampments are literally located at Sacramento City Hall. The Sacramento Public Library essentially functions as a day shelter. It’s filled with homeless people charging their phones, using computers and cleaning themselves in the bathroom. People were even living on the grounds of the State Capitol building.

An issue is that the city doesn’t have enough shelter space. Local officials are doing a terrible job of finding places to put people who even want shelters. The last city-run homeless shelter in Sacramento closed in April. Now the shelter is going to be used as a marijuana cultivation and distribution center.

This California crisis should be humiliating to their state leaders, but they don’t seem to be. Governor Newsom seems relatively uninterested in his state’s Tent City boom, even though his own constituents sleep on the grounds of the State Capitol. Instead, Newsom recently went on a three day fact-finding trip to figure out what he can do to alleviate poverty in El Salvador.

We learned after filming that Sacramento homeless encampments have gotten so out of hand they are threatening the structural integrity of the city’s anti-flood levees.

Note: In the following day’s broadcast Carlson noted the day after this broadcast Sacramento officials performed a sweep of homeless encampments.


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