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Sacramento Councilmember Valenzuela responds to homeless concerns in her district

Residents and business owners say they've reached a breaking point and are considering relocating
Credit: KXTV

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Many residents and business owners are speaking out saying the homeless situation along the Broadway and W/X corridors in Sacramento has reached a breaking point. Dr. Kathleen Coleman is one of them. She has been in her office between X and Broadway near 16th Street for 17 years. Now, she says she’s looking into moving.

“It’s two to three times a week I’m having to call Broadway security to come and take care of things, and I have patients that will not get out of their cars. And that means I lose business,” explained Coleman.

She said the police don’t come when she calls.

“Oh, they won’t come. You have to do the non-emergency number. And, ‘Someday, every day, whenever, we may come.’ They’re not coming,” Coleman said.

She’s not expecting much from the city’s $100 million dollar plan to provide services and shelters, many of which will be built along the W/X corridor, just a couple blocks away from her office.

“No one agrees with that because it’s not going to help. And I don’t know what would help, but that’s not going to help. Because the people who are in my parking lot are not going there,” said Coleman

Matt James is Dr. Coleman’s neighbor who helps keep an eye on her place. He understands the frustration with law enforcement because he’s had to call many times regarding his own property.

“They’re not proactive at all. All they do is come out after something has happened, if you can even get them to respond. They’re not even going to file a report. They’re going to make you take it online. And if you have photo evidence, you have to submit that too. It’s a disaster,” James explained.

Yet, he doesn’t blame them.

“We should be protected by the police. But the police are handicapped,” James said. “It seems like we’re getting the short end of the stick. We’re paying for the services, and we’re not getting any of them. You know, that’s just simple.”

He says the neighborhood has changed, and he no longer feels safe.

“I’ve been there 27 years. The neighborhood went from having 10 homeless old guys that drank beer by the YMCA to what we have now,” James said.

Katie Valenzuela is the Councilmember for District 4, the area that encompasses much of downtown, Midtown, the Broadway corridor and Land Park.

“Frankly, we’re hearing this all over the district and all over the city. It feels like the crisis has reached an epidemic proportion. It was bad before the pandemic; it got worse during the pandemic. And everywhere we go, I mean we were at a neighborhood meeting in Natomas last night. We go all over the district people are saying similar things. It feels like things are getting worse when it comes to homelessness,” she explained.

Valenzuela said she’s not happy with the way things are, and she knows the criticisms that are out there.

“Everyone says, ‘Gee, I wish you cared as much about tax payers as you do about folks who are unhoused.’ And I say well 90%, probably 99% of the calls I get are regarding encampments or regarding homelessness. So me finding a place for folks to go helps all of us,” she said.

Valenzuela said people need to keep one thing in mind.

“Something I tell people all the time is that we can move people when we have a place for them to go,” she explained.

Valenzuela wants the council’s $100 million dollar plan to be implemented quickly so more space is available.

“I hope that the plan can be implemented quickly because we need those sites. Without those sites, I’m stuck telling people, ‘Gosh, there’s nothing I can do unless they’re blocking the sidewalk or street.’ And I don’t like telling an unhoused person who says, ‘I’m ready. I want help.’ That, ‘Sorry, there’s no place for you. Call us back in three months.’ That’s not an option. And we need to do a lot more, so I do hope the plan gets implemented quickly.”

ABC10 asked Valenzuela if her constituents can expect some immediate relief when the plan goes into effect.

“I mean, I hope so. I mean my site’s impacted by the construction calendar, so we can’t really do anything," she said. "That’s probably six months out. There are other sites in other parts of the city that might be able to open sooner.”

Valenzuela said available sites can solve current issues.

“I told someone last night who were concerned about RV’s parked next to the park. I’m like, ‘If there was a safe parking spot right now available for them, I could probably get them over there with working through the tools we know how to use now. There’s just no place for me to take people,’” she explained.

She also responded to criticism made by some residents that planned homeless sites are not distributed equitably throughout the region.

“In District 4, there are services all over this district. There are services all over downtown and midtown. There are services in all sorts of neighborhoods around the city. And so, this plan may have only had new sites on that WX corridor but that’s not a reflection of where services already are. And really is an opportune place where a lot of residents, when we did our survey, said ‘Hey, why don’t we use those lots for something that’s helpful rather than just a blight in the middle of the community,’” Valenzuela said.

She also responded to calls for more police presence and more police response.

“My position has been pretty clear that I don’t think police are necessarily the solution to this crisis. What we’re talking about right now is a crisis whose root cause is we don’t have a place for these camps to go, and there’s a lot of conflict that results from traumatized people being in business and residential environments that aren’t suitable to that,” Valenzuela said.

She said the city is working to get an alternative up and running.

“I think there’s a lot of calls that don’t make sense for PD to go to if there isn’t a crime in progress or no one’s in danger. We don’t want them to be wasting their time responding to those calls. We want them to be focusing on the calls that are more urgent. So what we’re working on right now is getting the department of community response up to real time. And our last update, which was right before the comprehensive plan to vote, said by the end of the year there should be a number that folks could call that will get real time response for things that aren’t police related,” she said.

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