[Hpn] It takes a different village

paula farrell paula_95814@yahoo.com
Fri, 24 Jan 2003 15:04:05 -0800 (PST)

Yeah! I'm getting HPN digest again. Don't know why I
wasn't getting it for a month, maybe my pleas to yahoo
to help me get rid of unsolicited ads for sexual
products, I don't know.  I forget if I sent you this
editorial, but I'm so excited about it, I'd feel like
sending it out again.  Its from Sacramento News &
Review, our most popular weekly newspaper. A week
before the Sac Bee (daily) had article "Sacramento
denies tent city for homeless". I'm pretty sure I sent
you that one.
We've applied at another location and are being helped
by some of the officials within the denying offices. 
We realize chances are slim to get a permit but the
effort seems to be a community magnet.
Glad to be hearing from you again!
Paula Lomazzi

SN&R January 16, 2003 issue


 It takes a different village 

 Behind a bush. Beneath an overhang. 

 On a flattened cardboard box inside a doorway. 

 It's where Sacramento's homeless often sleep,
especially in the winter, when the shelters fill up or
are otherwise prohibitive. For instance, there are
currently no places where couples without children can
stay together, few where families with children can
stay together and, naturally, none that allow dogs. 

 Now, Sacramento's homeless have asked for a lawful
place to pitch a tent. Advocates have proposed that
the city allow a tent village to go up in Muir Park on
16th and C streets--a place where people without homes
can take a shower and eat a meal, where families can
stay together safely, out of range of muggers and
alcohol and drug use. The homeless want a legal site
where people who are down on their luck--there are at
least 3,000 homeless sleeping in Sacramento every
night--can safely and reasonably attempt to regroup
and get their lives together. 

 Clifford Crooks from the Sacramento Homeless
Organizing Committee has heard nothing but a flat out
"no" from officials in response to this proposal. The
city's Parks and Recreation administrators have told
him, simply, that it's against city code to camp in
city parks. Period. Over. The end. 

 But that shouldn't be the end. 

 Don't get us wrong; we agree that camping in parks
largely should be banned and that city parks weren't
meant to be used that way by residents. But the merits
of exempting one aptly placed park or finding a plot
of land so as to allow a tent city seem obvious. They
did for officials in the city of Portland, which, in
2000, exempted a one-acre parcel of land just outside
the city center to allow homeless people to create
what has become known as Dignity Village. 

 Though administered by Portland's housing department,
the Village has become its own self-policing
nonprofit, providing legal shelter to 100 or so
homeless, hosting fund-raisers to pay use fees on the
land and encouraging "mini-businesses" to assist
people in getting back on their feet. Dignity Village
continues to attract controversy; alcohol has been
found at the site occasionally,  and there have been
accusations of violence. (Where doesn't that happen?)
Still,  the general  concept seems to be working.
About half the village's residents reportedly are
employed full time now, and many others are employed
part time or are enrolled in an educational program.
Following Portland's lead, the city of Seattle
initiated its own tent city last March. 

 Sacramento churches and nonprofits, such as Loaves
and Fishes, continue to do their best to assist the
region's homeless. Local governments are also involved
in trying to provide services, through a variety of
agencies and in a dozen ways. But a variety of
approaches is best, including one that assists the
many who can't be helped by traditional shelters. We
urge city officials to allow the tent-village approach
in Sacramento.

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