City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

November 20, 2012
Winter housing program for homeless gets financial boost

Mayor Kevin Johnson announced this morning that faith, business and elected leaders had raised enough money to fund the Winter Sanctuary program that houses 100 homeless men and women every night in houses of worship.

With a check for $50,000 from Wells Fargo, this is the first time the program has been fully funded before the start of the winter season, the mayor said. All together, 27 congregations have signed on to house homeless people every night at a total cost for the season of $150,000.

"Sacramento is no longer sweeping homelessness under the rug," the mayor said.

September 13, 2012
Homeless group to unveil cabin model - across from City Hall

Homeless advocates have been trying for years to convince City Hall to allow a sanctioned "safe ground" camp. Now, city officials are about to get a close look at what that camp might look like.

Safe Ground will erect a prototype of a cabin for a homeless camp next week in Cesar Chavez Plaza - directly across the street from City Hall. The cabin will be set up on Wednesday, and advocates will give presentations and tours of the structure the rest of the week.

John Kraintz, one of Safe Ground's most visible members, told me Tuesday night the cabins could be built for about $10,000 apiece. But until the group convinces city officials and neighborhood interests to give them a spot to set up the cabins, the prototype will be the closest thing Kraintz and others get to a "safe ground."

September 11, 2012
Occupy, ACLU protest law restricting City Hall demonstrations

Protesters with the Occupy movement, the American Civil Liberties Union and homeless advocacy groups dined on the front lawn of historic City Hall afternoon - an action that could land them a misdemeanor charge by the end of the night.

The City Council is scheduled tonight to debate a new set of laws governing the use of the City Hall grounds. The ordinance would allow protests without permits or fees during the day, but require permits for a host of actions - including noisemakers and signs.

The new law would also prohibit protests between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., bathing in fountains on City Hall property and bringing fireworks, fog machines or weapons onto the grounds.

November 15, 2011
Homeless advocates say funding short on shelter program

Officials with the homeless advocacy nonprofit Sacramento Steps Forward said Tuesday that they are $80,000 short of having the funding needed to keep the region's winter sanctuary program operable this year.

The winter sanctuary program kept more than two dozen faith-based organizations and congregations open last winter to provide beds, meals and services to 100 homeless men and women every night.

With a funding shortfall, "there is a critical need at this point," said Leo McFarland, president of Volunteers of America. So far, about $66,000 has been raised.

October 12, 2011
Why Occupy Sacramento may not get to stay in park overnight

The Occupy Sacramento protesters asking to remain in downtown's Cesar Chavez Park 24 hours a day have more than the city's anti-camping ordinances working against them. They have the contentious debate over a sanctioned homeless camp to contend with as well.

As dozens of protesters filled the City Council Chambers on Tuesday to ask that they be allowed to remain in the park without being arrested, more than one City Hall insider mentioned to me that they were concerned about the long-term impact of allowing the demonstrators to stay.

For one, homeless advocates have pushed the city to allow them to camp along the American River Parkway and to establish a city-sanctioned "Safe Ground" homeless encampment. If the city suspends the camping ordinance for Occupy Sacramento, it's certain Safe Ground would demand the same.

August 16, 2011
Mayor: Progress made on finding housing for homeless

Mayor Kevin Johnson thinks the region could meet his goal of providing 2,400 permanent shelter beds for the homeless in time for this winter's wet and cold weather.

Sacramento Steps Forward, the mayor's non-profit organization founded to address the region's homeless issue, has helped identify more than 2,000 beds so far, officials said today. Johnson's goal was to find 2,400 before next year.

While officials are ahead of schedule on finding permanent housing for the homeless, "there are still far too many people who are homeless" in Sacramento, the mayor said.

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.

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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