OPINION: Homeless people are people first

An unfortunately necessary reminder to have a conscience


Kris Hall

Lisa Cook was cleared out of the encampment on Howe and Fair Oaks on Monday, April 11, 2022 and is still lingering around the intersection on Friday, April 15, 2022. She said she lost pictures of her family and all of her reserves of food.

Kris Hall, Opinion Editor

There is no greater example of poverty than homelessness, but money alone will not make it better. The solution for homelessness starts with one thing: housing for the homeless.

People deserve the security of a safe place to rest, to sit and to reflect on their life and their struggles and Sacramento sidewalks are not a safe place to do that.

For seven years, Lisa Cook has lived on a little patch of land off of Howe and Fair Oaks. It was a modest camp with natural shade from the trees and the river nearby had plenty of wood for campfires in the winter.

Cook said she is still waiting for safe housing developments to appear in Sacramento, but they’re all full. Sacramento County has been moving homeless people around all this year, but all of the temporary housing initiatives in Sacramento are at capacity.

“I thought I’d be homeless for 60 days,” Cook said. “I’ve been homeless for 12 years.” “There’s nowhere to go,” Cook said. “Nobody has permanent housing.”

Cook was cleared out of the Howe and Fair Oaks encampment on April 15, according to her, she is still left looking for a place to sleep and food to eat across the street from the cleared encampment.

A memorial erected as of Friday, April 15, 2022. The memorial was built after the evacuation of more than two dozen homeless sits in the middle of tracks left by the construction vehicles that removed their belongings and supplies on Monday, April 11, 2022. (Kris Hall)

Housing provides safety and security, and anyone looking for new apartments or negotiating new leases might understand the stress of finding housing in Sacramento. Failing to find housing means becoming one of thousands of people in the state capitol’s homeless population.

Anyone who finds themselves struggling to find permanent housing doesn’t deserve to be associated with any of the harmful stereotypes associated with being a homeless person.

Homeless stereotypes are extremely damaging to the homeless community and may prevent people with the privilege and security to solve the housing problem from uniting together and combating the causes.

The homeless problem is evidence of the failures in our society. As the United Nations says, homelessness contradicts many human rights leading to preventable deaths from injury or starvation.

White spray paint outlines where six feet fences will be erected to keep the homeless off the land. Broken caution tape is the only barrier as of Friday, April 15, 2022. (Kris Hall)

The efforts of Sacramento assemblymember Ken Cooley to give park rangers the ability to remove homeless camps from parks will just serve to criminalize and punish homeless people for the one thing they can’t control: the lack of consistent housing.

California State assemblymember Kevin McCarty cited the murder of 20-year-old Emma Roark as justification for generalizing homeless people as murderers, according to Capradio.

Roark was raped and murdered by a homeless man who lived in the park. By lumping him in with the average homeless population, McCarty contributed to the harmful stereotype that homeless people have a propensity toward violence. Nothing about the murder of Roark has anything to do with the fact that the man who killed her is homeless.

The framing of homeless people as murderers and rapists is not acceptable. The stresses that come with housing insecurity mean that people are exposed to dangerous environments they can’t get away from and creating legislation that targets the entire homeless population because of the violent acts of some is a negligent act on Cooley’s part.

Cook said people don’t treat her like she’s a real person.

“No one cares,” Cook said. “I feel like trash and people treat me like trash.”

There are thousands of folks just like Cook in Sacramento County who live without the safety and security of long-term housing.

Fresh wood in the cleared land on Howe and Fair Oaks will keep someone warm on the night of Friday, April 15, 2022. It’s clear that the broken caution tape won’t keep people from using the strip of land on Howe and Fair Oaks. (Kris Hall)

We should be focused and united in combating poverty and a housing crisis and providing mental health and addiction services– problems that only serve to complicate the situation that homeless people are in.

It’s the responsibility of folks privileged with housing security to look out for the people who are falling through the cracks.