Sacramento homeless encampment wins a lease — and hopes to be a model for California
Residents at an encampment who successfully negotiated a formal lease with the city of Sacramento called on homeless people across the nation to follow their example at a Saturday news conference.
The new lease binds city officials to an agreement: The people in Camp Resolution cannot be moved from the parking lot until every resident has been placed into permanent, stable housing.
The lease comes after a drawn-out fight with city officials, who have tried to force the residents to move multiple times. Now, the women-led camp has won official approval to remain in the tight-knit community they’ve refused to leave for months.
The point, said resident Desiree Pryor, is “to help everybody within it, and to make this a global movement for every other city to follow along.”
Anthony Prince, the attorney for the California Homeless Union who represented the residents of Camp Resolution in negotiations with the city, spoke with the crowd gathered outside the camp about the terms of the contract: “You cannot take this down until such time as every single person in this camp is provided with individual, durable and permanent housing. And housing does not mean some shelter where there’s 1,000 people all congregating together. It does not mean a pop-up tent encampment; it does not mean a sidewalk; it does not mean a street corner. It means a durable place to live like a human being.”
The camp and this agreement with the city, Prince said, could be “a model, an example for homeless people across the United States of America.”
Although the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2018 that citing or moving homeless campers when there was no other place for them to go was a form of cruel and unusual punishment under the Constitution, the city and the county have continued to force unhoused people to move under many circumstances.
Sacramento County as a whole has at least 7,000 more homeless people than it has shelter beds for them to sleep on. The contract gives these campers an added layer of protection.
The attorney emphasized that the residents set the terms of the lease: “The days are over when other parties are going to make decisions for the homeless.”
Non-binding agreements between Camp Resolution residents and the city have collapsed before. After an August 2021 plan identified the lot on the corner of Colfax Street and Arden Way as a fitting site for shelters and parking, Sacramento moved people off the lot and spent $617,000 to put up an iron fence and prepare the lot for city-sanctioned campers. Then, the city scrapped the plan, telling the residents they could not return.
Residents moved back in anyway, and put up a defiant sign: “$617,000 TAXPAYER DOLLARS FOR A PARKING LOT???”
After police ordered Camp Resolution out in November 2022, 60 people showed up at a City Council meeting to protest. In response, Sean Loloee, who represents the campers’ district, said the sweep was being postponed. In the four months since, the campers and the city hammered out this new deal.
“We don’t need a nonprofit industrial complex coming in, charging $4,000 a night for a piece of asphalt to babysit people,” Sacramento Homeless Union President Crystal Sanchez told reporters Saturday. “We need that funding put into the resources.”
Residents told The Sacramento Bee that the self-governing encampment — which has no nonprofit or city agency overseeing it — is a more dignified alternative to the controlling and sometimes degrading policies in place at many homeless shelters.
“We’re grown,” Pryor said.
Though the news conference was celebratory, Twana James, a homeless person who lives nearby at a camp called Bannon Island, said she and her elderly neighbors had just received 48-hour eviction notices. Pryor said she hoped Camp Resolution’s progress would inspire similar deals elsewhere, but the fight wasn’t over.