By Lysée Mitri
SACRAMENTO, California (KCRA) — California’s Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, cleared out a homeless encampment in Sacramento six months ago that has since returned, and nearby residents and business owners say they are concerned for their safety.
“I’m very sympathetic to the issues going on in our homeless community here, but at this point, it’s a growing safety concern,” Dr. Jenny Apekian said.
She owns Midtown Dental on the corner of 29th and G streets, right across from the line of tents where a growing number of unhoused people have been camping. Just over the last few months, she said rocks were thrown through business windows, damaging equipment inside. For Apekian and her employees, it’s come to them using a buddy system to go back to their vehicles.
She said she is calling police about concerns ranging from vandalism to theft to drugs on a daily basis.
When Caltrans did a sweep of the area in October, Apekian said that she and other nearby business owners offered to pay for Caltrans to have the section of land between 29th Street and Business 80 fenced off.
Play Video “They have ignored our emails. They say it’s on the list, but there seems to be no urgency,” she said.
Caltrans told KCRA that there is a plan for additional fencing, but they did not provide details on what that plan is or when it could happen. A spokesperson also said another cleanup will happen soon, but they did not say how soon.
Caltrans provided the following statement:
“Caltrans continues to work with its partners, local law enforcement, CHP, and the City of Sacramento on scheduling encampment closures, cleaning sites and coordinating with local agencies and social service providers so they can connect people experiencing homelessness with essential services and available shelter. Caltrans has cleaned this area before, and individuals have returned and reestablished an encampment. The department continues to add exclusionary measures, like fencing, in the area and will continue working to address the ongoing issues. The department provides 72-hour notice prior to any encampment closure and connects people experiencing homelessness on the state’s right-of-way with service providers who can offer safer shelter options.” When people camping in the area were told to leave back in October, City Council Member Katie Valenzuela said she was frustrated to learn about it because the city did not yet have a safe place for them to go.
“The mayor is pushing as hard and fast as he can, working with city staff to get some of these 20 sites we’ve identified open as quickly as possible,” Valenzuela told KCRA 3 in October. “Some of them have been identified as tiny homes and that’s going to take a few months.”
Since then, the city opened a safe ground site in February at Miller Park. It can temporarily house up to 110 people, and it already is typically full or nearly full.
The city is still working on finding more space for shelters.
“My paramount importance here is the safety of my staff and my patients and the members of this community,” Apekian said.
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