A few weeks back, Oprah Winfrey fixed her powerful spotlight on Sacramento in a segment about our ever-expanding tent city. Then everybody rushed to the story: NBC, National Public Radio, Inside Edition, USA Today … you name it. Result: Sacramento’s tent encampment has become a national symbol of the human results of our failing economy.
If there’s a bright side to all this attention, it’s that it might help push city leaders into doing what’s right for its growing homeless population. We’ve urged the city before in this space to sanction a campground where homeless people can live without fear of being constantly rousted by police and have access to running water, bathrooms and trash collection.
We hereby repeat the request.
Local homeless advocates say there are 1,200 people now sleeping outside in Sacramento every single night, either in tent city (which has 400 tents at last count), in their cars or on the streets. These individuals are human beings; they deserve their dignity. Though a sanctioned campground won’t solve the complex factors that went into making them homeless, at least it can provide an immediate solution to their most critical need to have a safe place to sleep.
Just think: If Sacramento does the right thing here by sanctioning a campground, our newfound national spotlight might actually inspire other cities to do likewise. Because let’s face it: More will soon be dealing with tent cities of their own.