Deadly important: Assaults, deaths of homeless individuals underline Sacramento councilman’s frustration

Allen Warren supports the mayor’s initiatives, but doesn’t feel the love for his own plan

This is an extended version of a story that ran in the July 6, 2017, issue.

Just two weeks after the launch of an ambitious $64 million plan to help Sacramento’s mentally ill homeless population find treatment and housing, the mood in City Hall turned somber again as North Sacramento Councilman Allen Warren expressed frustration about the lack of political support for his proposed tent city.

Warren’s comments came days after a homeless friend passed away, and also following news that county officials may spend an extra $3.8 million to destroy encampments along the creeks and levees, forcing hundreds out of the parkway.

The District 2 representative made his thoughts known during a June 27 meeting on strategies for expanding shelter services. Warren has been advocating for the creation of a safe, sanitary, outreach-oriented camp where those experiencing homelessness could find services and peace of mind. In March, his team unveiled a plan for such a facility, which would include showers, dog kennels, storage space, housing experts and medical treatment.

So far, only Councilwoman Angelique Ashby has publicly backed the plan. And Warren finally made it clear the lack of progress is bothering him, especially after two men living on the streets were murdered and a friend of his own—a Grant High School employee—died while living out of his car. “I’d like to see us do more, sooner,” Warren stressed. “On a daily basis I get very troubling calls about this homeless issue.”

Dropping his forehead into his palm, Warren added, “I know I don’t have all the solutions, but it’s the will of this council, including me, that all of our ideas are valid and have a place on the table and should be given due consideration. And I’m prepared to be bold.”

Earlier the same day, Councilman Steve Hansen sent a letter to the city manager expressing alarm about the deaths of the two homeless men, both of which happened in his Midtown district. Hansen asked for a plan for increasing safety around parks and other outdoor areas. During the meeting, Hansen acknowledged his own vexation. “The problem has gotten worse,” Hansen said. “We know we don’t have answers.”

Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who was largely responsible for landing a new $16 million-a-year medical grant for the homeless, tried to stay upbeat as the evening closed. “This is a hard subject,” Steinberg said. “And the No. 1 word associated with it is tremendous frustration … but we don’t have time for frustration.”

Two days later, police arrested a man on suspicion of beating his girlfriend unconscious at a homeless camp, and responded to call involving a homeless woman whose ankle was fractured by a car while jaywalking. On Sunday morning, police discovered the body of a 55-year-old man they believe fell accidentally from a campsite perched atop a concrete support pillar of a railroad overcrossing bridge onto the rocks below.