Post by County Supervisor Sue Frost
If you have taken a walk recently on the American River Parkway (ARP) in the downtown portions near Discovery Park, you would see a homeless problem. You would see camps being scattered across the ARP, and the trash associated with them. So in response, Sacramento County will be taking a vote on Wednesday to fund a program to fix those problems by raising fees, or stripping $5 million a year from emergency reserves or vital programs like public safety or the maintenance of our roads.
I want to start off by saying I believe we could be doing a better job with debris removal on the ARP, and that doing so would make a real impact. Fortunately, there are two grants available that I believe we have a great chance to win that could be used to help fix this problem. We currently have one Regional Park Debris Removal Team, and this money could get us three. But unfortunately, not even $5 million yearly could move the homeless people themselves off the ARP — and if spent, would likely result in higher fees.
The reason that $5 million yearly won’t fix the problem of homeless on the ARP is because while we can make the homeless move their camps, they simply move somewhere else along the ARP immediately afterwards. The only way to transition them out of homelessness is to provide intensive mental health and social services as well as housing, but waitlists are enormous, and the reality is that Sacramento County has nowhere to send the homeless that are living on the ARP. We have recently approved money to build more housing and shelters, but the money was only recently allocated and they haven’t been built yet. The homeless aren’t going to leave Sacramento County, and if we truly chase them out of the downtown sections of the ARP we will be pushing the problem up the road into areas closer to schools and housing, and even further from the services and shelters they need to help pull them out of homelessness.
Three ongoing sources to fund a proposal designed to move the homeless out of the Parkway have been identified, and all have problems. One is to divert money from the Waste Management department that is used to mitigate costs that current fees don’t cover — diverting those funds would result in more frequent and higher increases in fees for all residents. The second is to use money already allocated to road repairs and other infrastructure. The third would take money from dangerously low emergency reserves. I would like to note that Sacramento County has one of the lowest emergency reserves of any county in the state — barely enough to keep the county afloat for eight days.
I recognize homeless on the ARP is a problem, but I also recognize that raising fees, taking more money from critically low reserves, and raiding money already dedicated to other projects are not the answers to this problem. We need to wait until more housing is built for the homeless before we start trying to move them out of the ARP and further from the resources they need.
Thank you for reading – and as always, if you want to contact me, call me at 916-874-5491 or e-mail me at SupervisorFrost@saccounty.net.
Sue Frost represents the 4th District, which includes all or part of the communities of Citrus Heights, Folsom, Orangevale, Antelope, Rio Linda, Elverta, Gold River, Rancho Murieta, North Highlands, Carmichael, Foothill Farms and Fair Oaks.