Cruel, inhuman, degrading

Earlier this year, United Nations independent expert Catarina de Albuquerque toured cities across the country to investigate access to clean water and sanitation. While visiting Sacramento, she interviewed members of the Safe Ground homeless community, whose camp near the American River Parkway at Northgate Boulevard was disbanded earlier this year by county sheriffs.

Albuquerque’s findings? She mentioned homeless conditions as “unacceptable, an affront to human dignity and a violation of human rights that may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Specifically, she cited Tim, Safe Ground member whose job is “sanitation technician.” According to the U.N. report, Tim engineered a sanitation-waste system out of plastic bags, and that each week he “collects bags full of human waste, which vary in weight between 130 to 230 pounds, and hauls them on his bicycle a few miles to a local public restroom,” where he empties the contents, reuses the bags and sanitizes his hands with water and lemon.

Albuquerque recommends that the city of Sacramento ensure 24-hour access to public restrooms as an interim solution. The entire U.N. report will be released in the coming months. Look for it at