CITRUS HEIGHTS, Calif. — Citrus Heights resident Alfred Sanchez is frustrated with how Citrus Heights treats the homeless population and is taking action by holding a peaceful gathering Tuesday.
Sanchez is known in the area as the “Snack Man” because he drives around on his snack-filled scooter to feed, hand out water and spend time with people on the streets.
The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 14 in front of Citrus Heights City Hall to “let them know that someone is watching and seeing what they're doing,” according to Sanchez.
The gathering is meant to honor the Martin v. Boise ruling from 2019. The ruling protects homeless people who sleep on public property in the absence of adequate alternatives.
Sanchez says cities like Citrus Heights regularly try to find ways to “circumvent, override and twist the words of Martin v Boise” to move homeless people away from the community.
“We have to remind [the city] that there's a federal court order that... lets us sleep outside,” said Sanchez. “This is a community, someone kind of has to check up on them and advocate for them.”
He emphasizes public awareness, holding officials accountable and the importance of cities and counties following federal law.
“Citrus Heights doesn’t want homeless people here. I get that no one wants homeless people bothering you when you’re getting your McDonalds, so just send them to the park,” said Sanchez. “I couldn't imagine not knowing where you were going to sleep at night… The beauty of Martin v. Boise is that they can sleep in the park.”
Sanchez alleges police contradict permissions he received from the city on where to allow homeless people to sleep at night. He says the city will tell him one thing and the police will still harass people on the street.
“I see a lot of injustice out there, a lot of inconsistency,” said Sanchez. “I love what I do, but it’s very difficult… It’s really bad out there.”
A Citrus Heights spokesperson said the city and police department work with a "shared philosophy of balancing the rights of unhoused community members with the rights of the rest of our community to remain secure in their properties and enjoy public spaces."
The city denies not complying with Martin v Boise.
"We operate within the law to ensure all residents, housed or unhoused, are being good neighbors and hold those who infringe on rights or violate laws accountable," said Elyjah Wilbur, Citrus Heights communications director.
The city's full statement is below:
"The City of Citrus Heights and the Citrus Heights Police Department have a shared philosophy of balancing the rights of unhoused community members with the rights of the rest of our community to remain secure in their properties and enjoy public spaces. We operate within the law to ensure all residents, housed or unhoused, are being good neighbors and hold those who infringe on rights or violate laws accountable. We also work with allied partners like Citrus Heights HART (Homeless Assistance Resource Team) and Sacramento Self Help to offer our Navigator Program that connects unhoused residents with services and have had great success in this area."
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