Water for the people

As city hesitates, others step up to quench Sacramento homeless residents’ thirst

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This story was made possible by a grant from Tower Cafe.

Jim Lofgren directs the property management nonprofit Rental Housing Association, but has recently fallen under a new title—“Jim the Water Man.”

After reading about the city’s dearth of water fountains, mounting homeless population and record-breaking heat in SN&R (Read “Fountain of truth,” News, August 10), Lofgren started leaving ice-packed containers of bottled water in parks, dubbing them “water oasis stations.” In the process, he learned he was contributing to efforts already underway by longtime do-gooders toiling anonymously in the summer heat.

Nearly 40 percent of park drinking fountains are broken or malfunctioning, leaving unsheltered Sacramentans reliant on the generosity of strangers for the most basic need. The city says it’s working on a long-term funding solution to repair fountains, but doesn’t plan on building any more, despite zero fountains in Midtown or downtown, as of the latest data.

As if the public disinvestment in clean, accessible water wasn’t challenging enough, this summer was also California’s hottest. At least six county residents died of heat-related hypothermia this summer. Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory researchers found that humanity’s contribution to climate change made the record-breaking heat waves four to seven times more likely.

Lofgren was initially hesitant to have his efforts publicized. “Like I said, many others have done much more for many more years,” he wrote in a text. “But if it inspires others, that’s a positive. The homeless could use some more oasis spots around town. At only $10 for 3 packs of 24 water bottles, I will buy an oasis kit every week when shopping for groceries.”