Sacramento’s top prosecutor sued the city this week over its homeless encampments, accusing city officials of allowing the homeless population to become a public nuisance.
Sacramento County District Attorney Thien Ho announced his lawsuit on Tuesday, two months after he first threatened legal action. A companion lawsuit was also filed by residents and business owners.
“We have an erosion of everyday life,” Ho said Tuesday during a press conference announcing the lawsuit. “We forget what it feels like to be safe and that brings us to this lawsuit … because we need to get people off the streets.”
Sacramento’s homeless population has soared over the last several years.
Last year, the city had a record nearly 9,300 homeless people, up 67% from just three years earlier in 2019, according to last year’s Point-In-Time Count. The count also reported more than 1,600 tents and 1,100 vehicles being used for shelter, up five times from 2019.
“Enough is enough,” Ho told the Sacramento Bee. “We need to address this public safety crisis for both the housed and the unhoused.”
In his suit, Ho alleged that Sacramento failed to enforce local laws and allowed the city’s “descent into decay and this utter collapse into chaos.”
Ho has asked the city to enforce city ordinances on problems like sidewalk obstructions, unlawful storage, dumping, fires, and camping, the lawsuit says. He has also asked the city to audit the millions of dollars spent on the homeless crisis, according to the suit.
Camping is not allowed during the day on City Hall property, the lawsuit says, and Ho has asked the city “to extend that same protection that they give to themselves to the rest of the City,” but to no avail.
“The unhoused deserve to feel and be safe,” the lawsuit states, adding that nine out of 10 women who are chronically homeless have been victims of sexual assault.
“It’s not compassionate to let someone die in the sweltering summer sun or freeze to death in the cold winter night. It’s not compassionate to allow unsafe conditions to fester so badly that a 14-year-old boy cannot ride his bike to school or a group of little girls can’t play soccer on a field littered with needles. It’s not compassionate when someone in a wheelchair cannot use a sidewalk blocked by tents or a small business is forced to close forever due to repeated broken windows and vandalism,” the lawsuit says.
Other California cities have been struggling with a homeless crisis as well.
San Francisco has been in the throes of a homelessness crisis for years now, and it has only gotten worse since before the pandemic.
About 38,000 people are homeless in the Bay Area on a given night, up 35% since 2019. More than 7,000 people are homeless in San Francisco itself.
In August, San Francisco Mayor London Breed joined more than 200 protesters to call for an end to a federal restriction on the city’s ability to clear homeless encampments.
Nearly a third of the country’s homeless people live in California, according to a June statewide study from a research group at the University of California, San Francisco.