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'The buck stops with me' | Sacramento Mayor Steinberg responds to homeless camp cleanups while shelters are full

Those experiencing homelessness ask, "where do we go?" No official seems to have answers for that, as city shelters are all at capacity.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Oct. 8 update:

Caltrans delayed plans to remove by Oct. 15 the homeless encampments beneath where I-80 and Capital City Freeway split, just east of Watt Avenue.

Original story: 

On September 29th, Caltrans bulldozers pushed tents, beds and coolers aside as folks who lived there watched from the other side of W and 9th.

The same thing happened six days later near 29th and F streets under Capital City Freeway, but each person being removed that ABC10 spoke with had the same question. 

"Where do we go?" Jason Sloan, a man experiencing homelessness said after receiving notice by Caltrans to vacate the area.

No officials seem to have answers for that, as city shelters are all at capacity.

ABC10 asked Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg why these cleanups are still happening when the shelters, the Safe Ground camping areas and the Motel Voucher Program are all at capacity.

"I don't know, I mean that's a Caltrans decision and I'm inquiring, believe me, that's why I'm in touch at the highest levels to get those answers," Steinberg said.


But Caltrans says the ball is actually in the city's court. 

"Where do these folks go? That's a political solution to that problem and I don't have a comment on that, the department doesn't weigh in one way or another, just simply have to keep the route safe and operational," Patrick Bishop, the Caltrans District 3 Deputy Director of Maintenance and Traffic said.  

Caltrans says they found hazards such as needles and human feces and did it to avoid other dangers like fires started in the encampments and traffic accidents. 

"If Caltrans has an operational need to move people from where they need to begin work, that should be timed with the availability of alternative sites and that's what I'm going to, am working on and I'm going to see through here so these are not sweeps, sweeps are no good, sweeps to where?" Steinberg said. 

The city's Department of Community Response, which addresses homelessness issues, said in a statement, "We would be willing to work with the people in these encampments, but all of our shelters and safe ground sites are full, so we have very little to offer them."


"We are in the process of leasing more motel space, we are trying to get our vouchers out as quickly as possible, as we are creating more tiny home villages in north Sacramento, in south Sacramento," Steinberg said.

The city's $100 million plan to address homelessness involves building more than 20 new sites for shelter around the city. Five of which fall within Caltrans jurisdiction, under the W-X freeway between 18th and 24th. 

"Some of it requires Caltrans and FTA (Federal Transit Administration) approval, some of it requires the placement of the infrastructure," Steinberg said.

So who is really responsible? 

"Obviously the buck stops with me," Steinberg said. "I mean, here in the city and I accept that and I can assure you and everyone that I am working day and night with city officials to get these projects under the comprehensive siting plan up and running as quickly as possible, there's no excuses."

Steinberg did say he's hoping to have a handful of sites set up by December 1, before winter kicks in.

Meanwhile, the city has received notice again that Caltrans plans on another encampment removal by Oct. 15.

Beneath where I-80 and Capital City Freeway split, just east of Watt Avenue.

WATCH MORE: Homeless encampment removals continued by Caltrans