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American River Parkway Foundation demands action on homeless issue

They say Sacramento County and City have the money but have put off action for too long

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The American River Parkway Foundation sent a letter to Sacramento County and the City of Sacramento demanding something be done to address the homeless problem. They say it’s the county’s responsibility to provide for the safety and health of its residents, including its parks, and that continued inaction is damaging the local environment.

Dianna Poggetto is the executive director of the American River Parkway Foundation

“The foundation has watched the county and the city over the last couple of years, and they’ve had initiatives but nothing…everything’s been stalled,” Poggetto said.

Now, the foundation is demanding the city and county take action.

“We felt it was kind of time to raise our voice, so to speak, to say something has to be done,” Poggetto said.

She said the foundation repeatedly encounters the hazards caused by the hundreds and hundreds of unhoused people living along the parkway.

“We have noticed it because we have mile stewards who are actually out on the parkway cleaning, and now we have to give needle boxes to each of those stewards and they’re coming back full.”

She said there’s no room anymore for excuses.

“It used to be a few years ago that it was the city and the county didn’t have enough funding to open additional shelters. The funding’s not the issue anymore,” Poggetto said.

On the funding point, Bob Erlenbusch, the executive director of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness, agrees.

“I’ve been doing this work for almost four decades. I’ve never seen this level of hundreds of millions of dollars that have been made available not only by the state but also by the federal government,” Erlenbusch said.

He lays the blame at the feet of Sacramento city and county elected officials.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and, so far, it’s being squandered by the city and the county,” Erlenbusch said.

He’s worried, though, that the push by the American River Parkway Foundation will get the wrong kind of reaction and cause the wrong kind of backlash.

“Instead of saying, ‘Yeah, we have a plan to take 105 tiny homes out of storage, that have been there since March,’ that they’ll not do that but rather continue to criminalize people experiencing homelessness,” Erlenbusch said.

One unhoused man, who goes by the name “Snake” and lives along the American River Parkway, said it’s clear no one knows what to do with him or the people around him.

“Been out here, this year will be 13 years. In the last, I guess seven years or so, the rangers will write you up for whatever they feel like writing you up for,” Snake said.

He said he feels like the cards are stacked against people like him.

“We’re trying to do something, at least I am. I’m trying to find a place. But who can afford a thousand, who’s got $1,400 or $1,900? There’s no way,” Snake said, referring to rent prices.

Sacramento County issued a statement in response to the demand letter saying:

“The County is in receipt of the letter from the American River Parkway Foundation. We look forward to working cooperatively with all our municipal and community partners, including the American River Parkway Foundation, to keep the American River Parkway a place for all to enjoy and welcome additional discussions around the complex stressors affecting the Parkway.

The County remains committed to the American River Parkway, and Regional Parks has been a priority area for the Board, as has been demonstrated by the County’s consistently increased funding over the past several years, which has allowed for additional rangers for increased public safety, fire fuel reduction, creation of an Environmental Impact Team, outreach for connections to social services, increased trash and debris removal, and on-going work with the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Sacramento Storm Water Quality Partnership, and Regional Sanitation to address water quality studies on the Lower American River.”

To read the full demand letter from the American River Parkway Foundation, view the pdf below.

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