City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

February 15, 2011
Sacramento closer to plan for 'Safe Ground' homeless

We should soon get a glimpse of what Mayor Kevin Johnson and homeless advocates have planned for a "Safe Ground" homeless facility.

Kunal Merchant, the mayor's chief of staff, told me this afternoon that city officials, homeless advocates and officials with the Sacramento Steps Forward organization have nearly developed a plan for a Safe Ground. The strategy includes size control, security and funding.

The last - and clearly the most contentious - element left to hammer out is location. The full strategy should be communicated to the public within the next few weeks.

"Safe ground remains an important piece of a much broader, comprehensive plan to help all homeless individuals reach permanent housing," Merchant told me. "There's been a lot of great discussion and dialogue over the last several months and we're closer than ever to having plan."

I had called the mayor's office this morning after a story in today's Bee showed that roughly 200 homeless campers - including 64 from the Safe Ground Sacramento movement - had simply moved their encampment after sweeps by county park rangers. I wanted to know if the latest round of sweeps had led to any developments in the push to develop a Safe Ground plan.

Merchant pointed out to me that 2,800 people are homeless on any given night in Sacramento and that strides have been made to make more beds available to those in need. Still, I noted, the Safe Ground advocates are perhaps the most vocal segment of that group and therefore get much of the attention.

What are your thoughts? Do you support a sanctioned "tent city" that would act as transitional housing for the homeless?

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at


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