By Crystal Sanchez
On Saturday April 16th 2022 a shooting took place. Inside the vehicle was an unhoused family who was resting. During the shooting an 11-year-old male child was shot. He sustained a gunshot wound to his buttocks and is currently in the hospital. The family has multiple children and a mother who is trying to hold down two jobs while being unhoused. Due to the fact that their vehicle is evidence it is being held by law enforcement. The mother is unable to even retrieve her wallet or possessions. This is a family caught in the crossfire of Street violence. We are the spokesperson for the mother as she is dealing with the trauma from this event.
On April 3rd 2022 Sacramento had one of the worst mass shootings that we have seen. Six people lost their lives and multiple people were hospitalized. Melinda Davis was a beautiful unhoused woman who died on that fateful day. We held a press conference shortly after the event denouncing the violence on our streets and brought forward the continued awareness that unhoused individuals continue to be in the crossfire of violence.
As we stated in the other press conference violence comes in many forms not just through shootings. State created dangers that perpetuate harm are being practiced on a daily basis within the city of Sacramento. Since the reopening of the state the City of Sacramento has continued to move encampments almost daily now. Violating and circumventing Martin versus Boise by offering no real-time services and taking their only forms of shelter. This continues to place these people in state created dangers which include death. The community continues to be misinformed that these people are being offered resources by the Department of Community response who not only is in charge of homelessness and Housing services but youth gang units and violence prevention. The metrics that the city is providing do not state that people have been housed instead they state positive outcomes. What positive outcomes generally means is that they have been cycled through into the shelters. Prior to sweeps people are being offered business cards they are being told to call 211 which does not route you to any type of housing, real-time resources or crisis intervention. They are also having people come out to see if they qualify for a behavioral health assessment. All of this while spending hundreds of millions of dollars on pop up tent communities versus realistic solutions to get people out of harm’s Way and to prevent the violence on our streets.
We have sent multiple emails to the city of Sacramento alerting them of the violence happening on the streets and have been met with no responses to those emails. These emails have not been sent specifically about the unhoused but about the overall community. The most recent email I sent was on March 25th asking the mayor of Sacramento to denounce violence on the streets publicly. Here is a quote from the email and I am willing to share the email. “The unhoused have now become a Target because of the war on our streets” the mayor returned my email with a phone call with an unlisted number and asked me to call back. I emailed the mayor and let him know that I did not have his number and never heard back. Just a few weeks later the mass shooting occurred.
Within the County of Sacramento there has been positive movement towards creating realistic solutions. Out of a pilot that we were part of they have created an encampment team which is bringing forth the available real time services to those in the encampments. With that being said the resources and housing are slim to none for the 11,000 people on the streets who have tried to access services. Which will be evident in a couple of weeks as we share the outcomes of a Statewide initiative that took place in Sacramento. Accessing housing referrals and services is not as unobtainable as it is in the City of Sacramento. However the County of Sacramento is failing in the area of Public Health. We have a Public Health crisis on our streets and we have asked the public health department to intervene and have been met with opposition.
We feel we need to give a little background history and that is why we have shared what we are seeing within the city and the county. Since the mass shooting there has been at least two shootings or acts of violence per night. While each one of us in the community can go home, lock our door and be protected by the roof and walls of our homes; unhoused individuals are forced to be in the line of fire no matter where they are at. We are asking:
- That our city and county break the communication barrier and immediately come together to publicly denounce the violence on our streets and give us the people a realistic plan on how they are going to protect our most vulnerable residents. This isn’t a photo opportunity, it is about truly addressing a plan and the security of our City and County.
- We also ask that funding that the city of Sacramento is putting forth be given to the organizations that are actually doing the work. The organizations who are currently not getting paid to be at the state fair, major events, to be in the malls, and to be on the streets when these shootings are occurring. We are not talking about entities that show up after the fact when the cameras are rolling.
- Prevention is key and knowing where the prevention measures have failed is vital. Accountability and transparency is needed.
- This is not about what we continue to see Statewide and locally of enforcement measures. Enforcements to where? …To Band-Aid solutions of shelters that recycle people at the cost of tax dollars of $4,000 to $5,000 per head per month? We have the resources to end homelessness we just need the political will. When we have the housing and services available we are able to readily and immediately fill these with people pleading for services. We are standing on a fine line where we are choosing to criminalize people for the lack of basic necessities such as housing and wraparound resources.
Finally, if the political will continue to ignore the impacts of the community we must come together to solve these issues. The division of the businesses, residents and unhoused community is no different than the violence being perpetuated. We must organize and unify to make this the community we know and love. We all deserve a safe Sacramento.
Crystal Sanchez is Western Regional Director for the National Union of the Homeless and Sacramento Homeless Union President.