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Despite the 90-degree weather, more than 300 people came together at Cesar Chavez Park, located at 924 J St., on Wednesday afternoon to support the second annual Safe Ground Jubilee and its message: That the rights of homeless people must be protected.
“The celebration is about all of the friends from the community that have joined forces with the homeless community,” said Paula Lomazzi, leader of the Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee. “We are trying to bring about Safe Ground and just make connections with the homeless people.”
Started in July 2009, Safe Ground is an organization that aims to provide a secure location sanctioned by the city and operated by the residents where the homeless can go to be free from harassment and danger and to access services they need to turn their lives around.
Safe Ground came about when people started to realize community bonds, Lomazzi said. After the tent city was taken down, people needed a place to go. She added that Safe Ground is a vehicle for people who want to help or meet homeless people.
The Jubilee followed the Safe Ground March to support the homeless community. Marchers started from Loaves and Fishes, located at 1321 North C St, and walked or biked to Cesar Chavez Park.
The Jubilee had several guest speakers discussing topics pertaining to homeless people’s current situation.
Guest speakers included Council members Jay Schenirer and Angelique Ashby.
“We know that there are challenges out there, and we know that winter is coming,” Schenirer said. “We have to do two things: We have to find a place that you can call your own this winter, and we have to find, as we’re working on now, a permanent home for Safe Ground.”
Schenirer said that his and Ashby’s commitment is that by the time the weather changes, homeless people will have a place that they can call their own for this winter.
Other speakers included Colin Bailey, an attorney with Legal Services of California, speaking on the state’s responsibilities and his feelings on its current inability to help all citizens. Sonny Iverson, lead outreach advocate at the Wind Youth Center, spoke about the lack of resources for transition-age youth, such as shelters. Debra Reiger, chairwoman of the Sacramento County Chapter of the ACLU, discussed the civil liberties of homeless people.
“We’re concerned that people are not being given their rights,” Reiger said. “They have the rights to not be hassled, to not be chased away.”
“Safe Ground is a positive thing that Sacramento needs … and we’re long overdue,” said Jeanie Williams, spokeswoman for Safe Ground. “We need to let people know that homelessness is a real problem and people have to stop being blind to it. The homeless are people too. They have needs too. We all have our rights, and people shouldn’t have to worry about where they’re going to sleep that night or where they’re going to eat that day.”
Lomazzi said that this year’s jubilee had more information tables for those in need or for those curious about how to alleviate the situation.
Tables included Women’s Empowerment, an organization providing women with the help to secure a self-reliant life. Wheels for Work had information on job search and resume training services that they provide, and the ACLU’s table had information about the rights of the homeless people.
Marcelino Medina, a man homeless for three years, said he attended the Safe Ground march that preceded the jubilee and went to Cesar Chavez Park to support Safe Ground.
“There were about 100 people on the march,” Medina said. “Safe Ground provides a feeling of safety. I can get a good night’s rest and a place to cook, so I wanted to show my support.”
Medina said he heard about Safe Ground by seeing the difference it made in others, so he looked into the program.
“I can’t work because of back problems,” Medina added. “I receive $190 in food stamps and $134 in cash aid. That’s way below the poverty level. That’s my reason for being in a tent.”
Even with such hardships, all around the park people lounged in the shade, listening to the bands and holding signs to show their support.
Harmony brought the crowd together with its deep lyrics sung a cappella. The three-man group held the crowd’s attention as members swayed to the words, “Something got a hold of me.”
Miracle followed, the rap group’s strong presence and blaring sound presenting a stark contrast to Harmony’s soft sound. Miracle brought more people to the stage area, their style reaching out to a broader audience.
Pinkie and Blind Resistance stole the crowd. Members of the audience yelled to Pinkie to really let it go.
“You want me to get deep, do ya?” she asked the crowd. Pinkie gave the crowd a single soulful note that she took to the sky, her blues style stirring the audience into movement. The crowd got up and danced as she clapped her hands, and the guitarist pounded away at his guitar, building the tempo until Pinkie sang of life and love.
The Safe Ground Jubilee is to bring people together,” Lomazzi said, “and the jubilee is an event to cross the divide between these two communities.”