Ordinance addressing homeless encampments adopted by Elk Grove City Council


 

At last night's Elk Grove City Council meeting, an ordinance was unanimously adopted to address the city's growing encampment sites. Although the city does not face the same problems as Sacramento, encampments have increased in the last year.

In a report to the city council on the ordinance, Elk Grove City Attorney Jonathan Hobbs said there are two elements to the ordinance. They include providing resources for those in need and enforcement for violations of the ordinance.

"What it essentially does is prohibits certain activity on public property," Hobbs said.

Among the restrictions are people cannot camp within 500 feet of daycare facilities, schools, playgrounds, or youth facilities. Additionally, the camp cannot exceed 150 square feet, cannot impair public access to things like sidewalks, and must be kept clean.

Among the penalties proposed was a $100 fine for non-compliance. The city will also confiscate the possessions of individuals violating the ordinance and be held for 90 days.

During deliberations, Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen asked who, besides city staff and the homeless ad hoc committee members, Councilmembers Stephanie Nguyen and Pat Hume, were consulted on the ordinance. Hobbs told Singh-Allen groups like Elk Grove Hart and the Elk Grove Food Bank were not invited.

Hume said the ad hoc committee was initially focused on the enforcement aspect of encampments, but other groups would be consulted as the process continues.

"We plan to have meetings with Elk Grove Hart, and with the [Elk Grove] food bank, and with other non-profits for future ...meetings," he said.

Singh-Allen said she contacted other groups who wanted to be involved in developing the enforcement ordinance. She suggested the matter be continued and groups like Elk Grove Hart and the Elk Grove Food Bank became involved.

Singh-Allen said her preference was "to bring this to a future meeting in the next meeting or in July."

Singh-Allen's request was met with resistance from the city council. Hume said it was inappropriate for organizations like the Elk Grove Food Bank to be involved in the enforcement discussion.

"We wouldn't ask the food bank how to arrest a criminal," Hume said. "And the food bank would not ask the P.D. [police department] how to sort through and deliver the food they receive."

Also pushing back on Singh-Allen was Nguyen, who urged the adoption of the ordinance.

"The encampment process is getting out of hand; We need to take action," Nguyen said. "We need to be leaders here in this city to ensure that the encampments are not going to happen in so many pockets throughout the entire city as you are seeing in other areas."

Singh-Allen did convince her colleagues to remove the $100 fines for violations.

Encampments are prevalent in the nine western states covered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit based on the 2018 Martin v. Boise decision. The decision said government agencies must allow homeless individuals to sleep on public lands if they cannot provide shelter services. Elk Grove does not have permanent shelter services for its unhoused population.
 

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2 comments

Renegade said...

The last paragraph of this article states all you have to know.
"Martin v. Boise decision. The decision said government agencies must allow homeless individuals to sleep on public lands if they cannot provide shelter services. Elk Grove does not have permanent shelter services for its unhoused population."
Certainly, public parks have playgrounds.
Therefore, the new EG ordinance is in violation of a law that was just confirmed by the Court of Appeals.
Why do we pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to Johnathan Hobbs when a 1st year law student could do a better job of keeping the city out of costly and lengthy litigation that this bamboozle of a law will inevitably costs us taxpayers?

Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

This ordinance is skating on thin ice based on the Martin v Boise decision. Aside from the concerns pointed out by Renegade, limiting encampments to four camps runs afoul of the First Amendment right to assembly. If five people are occupying 750 sq. feet, will they be dispersed?

Aside from that, the 500-foot limitation implies that people living in encampments are akin to convicted child molesters. Undoubtedly many of the unhoused have various issues, but this seems like arbitrary and discriminatory labeling that further marginalizes them.

Whether the entire ordinance is legal or not is debatable, but alas, our city will rely on outside counsel to resolve those lawsuits. Unfortunately, the city council members are trying to make our homeless invisible to residents.

Out of sight and out of mind is a perfect solution as Mr. Hume, Ms. Nguyen, and Ms. Singh-Allen campaign.

One last note about camp cleanliness. Will there be access to waste containers? Hard to dispose of trash properly without containers.

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