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A place on earth
May 24, 2011 9:37 PM   Subscribe

Safe Ground is an organization of Sacramento's homeless population to claim a secure location in order to live decently. While resistance to tent cities (previously, 2, 3) has largely been due to political expediency (criminalizing homelessness is easier than ending it), a spot on Oprah brought media attention to the plight of the homeless and made it more difficult for police to bully them from place to place with the threat of jail. In response to this, Costa Mantis(of He Knows You're Alone fame [uncredited on the wiki]) started filming the personal stories of the homeless along the American River in Sacramento. This led to Searching for Safe Ground, a miniseries concerning the struggle of Sacramento's homeless for a place to exist. Incidentally, a federal jury ruled tonight that the city of Sacramento has been violating homeless people's constitutional rights by moving them from public property and confiscating their property. Stay tuned.
posted by Wyatt (15 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
a federal jury ruled tonight that the city of Sacramento has been violating homeless people's constitutional rights by moving them from public property and confiscating their property.

Link please?

"confiscating their property" seems to imply that these homeless people owned some land on which they were dwelling that has been taken from them (unless you meant to imply other physical property they have been relieved of). This seems to fly in the face of the definition of homeless - it is doubtful to me that these people had actual land (that they had owners' rights of) confiscated from them.

This is definintely an issue that the city and county governments need to deal with in a compassionate and effective manner, but let's remember that many of the areas along the American River are some of the most dangerous parts of the entire city. I've had friends and family members working security or policing many of these areas and I've heard enough harrowing first hand accounts to know well enough where to avoid. This isn't to say that all homeless living there are criminals, but its not an unreasonable idea that a larger percentage of their population is responsible for criminal activity than is that of the general public.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:19 PM on May 24, 2011


allkindsoftime: (unless you meant to imply other physical property they have been relieved of).

I'm pretty sure that's what he meant. It's a fairly notorious and common practice for the police to relieve the homeless of their meager possessions in order to drive them away from an area, particularly if they're the sort of thing that would allow them to remain (i.e. camping gear in a forested area, etc.)
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:22 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


An excellent article [PDF] by William T. Vollman, in the March issue of Harper's, telling the story of his own experience living in Safe Ground.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 10:33 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


"confiscating their property" seems to imply that these homeless people owned some land on which they were dwelling that has been taken from them (unless you meant to imply other physical property they have been relieved of)

There are stories out there of police destroying tents -- not just incidentally, but going at them with shears or boxcutters -- and confiscating stuff in the process of kicking people off of land.
posted by weston at 11:39 PM on May 24, 2011


allkindsoftime: This isn't to say that all homeless living there are criminals, but its not an unreasonable idea that a larger percentage of their population is responsible for criminal activity than is that of the general public.

I wonder how many stolen lawn chairs, tossed garbage cans and waylaid cell phones it would take to equal the feats of just one of these fine upstanding non-homeless citizens.

Yeah, those homeless are what's ruining the damn country.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:11 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Its not just in the USA:

Westminster council's crackdown on soup runs for homeless sparks anger - Campaigners condemn proposed law by Conservative-controlled authority to fine people who distribute food to homeless
posted by marienbad at 1:31 AM on May 25, 2011


William Vollmann wrote an excellent article on Safe Ground in the recent edition of Harper's. Unfortunately it's not free for non-subscribers, and I can't figure out an easy way of directly purchasing this article. I'd almost say the article worth the cost of an annual subscription.

I don't feel comfortable summarising or exposing on the article either; William Vollmann is far too great a writer.
posted by asymptotic at 1:55 AM on May 25, 2011


Homeless people work extremely hard to make do, and go unnoticed. To say they are particularly likely to be criminal betrays complete ignorance of what being homeless is about. The very fact that ANY political grandstanding takes place around this issue is all you need to know to stop trusting anything you read/hear in the major media.

Besides, the homeless problem will go away very soon. We've found a new way to cure/prevent it. It's called for-profit prisons. Lock the homeless up, they are no longer homeless. Instead, other people get jobs keeping the formerly homeless locked up, so those people also are kept from being homeless. It's win-win, and win again on the corporate profits! w00t!
posted by Goofyy at 5:06 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Homeless people work extremely hard to make do, and go unnoticed.

Except for the ones with the signs, I guess? If you've got evidence to the contrary that confirms my complete ignorance on the subject of the homeless community and their non-potential for higher criminal rates along the American River section, I'd love to see it.

In the meantime maybe you'd like to check out this crime rate by neighborhood map of Sacramento. Kind of interesting how some of the least safe neighborhoods follow that river snaking across town, huh?
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:58 AM on May 25, 2011


Kind of interesting how some of the least safe neighborhoods follow that river snaking across town, huh?

There's enough dark blue spots on that map right next to the river and light blue spots poking out a good ways away that I don't think it's making the case you seem to think it's making.

And for that matter, light rail and major roads/freeways are a better match than the river.
posted by weston at 8:51 AM on May 25, 2011


I've seen news reports with video of police destroying tents and sleeping bags. I always find it sad to see people lose the things they need for basic survival.

There are homeless people who may have chosen it as a lifestyle that accommodates alcoholism or drug abuse. There are homeless people who have few work skills, so they get and stay unemployed more than the general population. But a large component of homeless people have mental illnesses, including intractable addiction. It's hard to tell how much of the addiction is in response to mental illness. People with poorly- or un-treated mental illness can be pretty scary, can be violent, and are an uncommonly difficult population to provide service to, and to manage. A big part of dealing with homeless populations is to provide mental health care.
posted by theora55 at 10:11 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kind of interesting how some of the least safe neighborhoods follow that river snaking across town, huh?

Hi there! I grew up in Sacramento, and many's the summer day I spent rafting down that very same river. It may be true that some of the least safe neighborhoods follow the river, but it is also true that the swankiest, most expensive neighborhoods follow the river, so I don't think the river itself has much to do with it.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:48 AM on May 25, 2011


A big part of dealing with homeless populations is to provide mental health care.

WAS. These tent cities are swelling because we are in a depression. They are swelling with people whose worker's comp ran out before their shoulders healed. Or whose unemployment ran out. Classic Steinbeck material. Yes, we do need to spend the money putting back under lock and key all those unfortunate schizophrenics we never should have put on the street to begin with. But these Hooverville residents will be a lot easier to help out, if we Just. Fucking. Bother. And that starts by not harassing them like this.
posted by ocschwar at 5:13 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know, but I've got mine, and I know one thing for sure: The Republican party is the party of I"ve Got Mine, and they will put these criminals in their place and prevent them from stealing mine! Maybe they can't cart them all off to those Fema cams we've heard so much about. Then they won't need the damn tents anyway! Good riddance to bad rubish! Vote Republican today, for the Final Solution to the Homeless Problem!
posted by Goofyy at 9:32 PM on May 26, 2011


That's a Maybe they CAN up there, amongst the hamburger.

Follow The Worm!
10 days to Roger Water's concert. w00t!
posted by Goofyy at 9:37 PM on May 26, 2011


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