A legal tent town

Four hundred local volunteers hit the streets last week for Sacramento County’s annual homeless count. And though we don’t yet have the final numbers, it seems clear from firsthand accounts (and ever-climbing numbers at the local shelters and food services) that our region’s homeless population is mounting. Increased homelessness should come as no surprise, given the global economic crisis, rising unemployment rate (especially in California) and the fact that our region turns out to be in the top 10, nationally, for retail-store closures.

It’s therefore utterly appropriate that city and county officials are studying whether or not to create a legal “tent town,” where people without a roof over their heads can camp out without fear of being harassed or regularly rousted by cops for illegal camping.

To become legally sanctioned, a Sacramento tent town would come with some rules attached. But a few rules (such as no drinking and no violence) hasn’t stopped tent towns from succeeding in other cities, with Portland first among them.

It wouldn’t solve the intractable problems faced by homeless individuals. But it would, at least, provide them an immediate solution to their most pressing problem. Here’s hoping the city and county give the legal tent town concept their blessing.