About 50 people urged the Sacramento City Council Thursday to help efforts to reserve land for the homeless. The people who addressed the City Council were supporters of the “Safe Ground” campaign, which opposes the city’s anti-camping ordinance and advocates for a living space for the city’s homeless.
The recent stabbing death of 68-year-old Bernice Nickson, a homeless resident, was mentioned in the comments of some of the Safe Ground advocates.
The Safe Ground supporters spoke during the part of the meeting reserved for public comments on subjects that are not covered in the agenda. Council members do not respond to citizens during that part of each City Council meeting.
Comments from some of the people who addressed the City Council Thursday are below:
Tracie Rice-Bailey, advocate for Safe Ground: Had [Nickson] had a safe place to sleep, she would be alive today. If this is not a solid reason for safe ground, what might be? We need to get real and not let this happen to anyone else. We need a moratorium on the anti-camping ordinance now.
Joan Burke, director of advocacy for Sacramento Loaves & Fishes: Please give us Safe Ground so that no woman has to sleep outside in Sacramento, and no woman has to die because she’s homeless.
John Kraintz, advocate for Safe Ground: Safe Ground is hoping to offer something that provides a solution of empowerment, rather than entitlement. To try to be contributors. That’s why these people are here tonight — because they’re part of your community. They care. How many normal citizens do we find coming out to talk to the City Council and tell them what’s on their mind?
Mark Merin, civil rights attorney: When people say they’re part of Safe Ground, and they’ve counted on Safe Ground, what they’re talking about is a group of people who stay together. They camp at night … break their camp in the morning, and they drag their stuff away. So, it’s a clean site. That is not ideal. What they need is a place where they can actually be and their stuff can stay safe. And they can go about connecting with family (and) friends, qualifying for services, and moving up.
Cres Vellucci, member of the board of directors of ACLU of Sacramento County and a Vietnam veteran: As I understand it, a number of the people that are homeless … are military veterans. As a veteran, I would like to encourage all of you to consider that these people have served their country. They’ve done what they had to do — whether they were drafted like I was, or whether they joined.
Photo caption: The city removed "Tent City" last year. Photo by Jonathan Mendick.
Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.