Saturday, February 19, 2011

Folks Expected to be Invisible Night and Day


Let's set the record straight about

Safe Ground's goals and motives

Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 11A

Over the last two years, since the Safe Ground movement emerged out of the rubble of Sacramento's infamous tent city, much has been written about Safe Ground. Most of it suffers from the stereotypic misperceptions that all homeless persons are pathological, have little value as human beings and a prevalent misunderstanding of the Safe Ground objectives.

Safe Ground is about people seeking to help themselves while trying to survive without many of the benefits of society and about providing Sacramento with a model solution that can be cost effectively repeated elsewhere. Safe Ground is not about living in tents on the American River Parkway. We are there only until we have other options.

Safe Ground was formed when a group of homeless persons got together for self improvement and self protection, and to find freedom from drugs, alcohol and violence. It formed a coalition with advocates for the homeless and started to give serious thought to why the current solutions to homelessness were not succeeding. In early 2010, Safe Ground Sacramento Inc. was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation.

In 2009, the official street count by the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistancehealth insurance and access to medication, personal belongings and credit. placed the number of homeless people on the streets each night – after shelters were full and affordable housing resources exhausted – at 1,200. We are talking about the people hardest hit by the economic recession, those that have lost jobs,

The homeless live in extreme poverty, often struggling with a damaged sense of self worth and little hope for their future. Safe Ground asks why we have policies that work to drive these people into submission rather than policies that help lift them out of despair.

The Safe Ground model community will contain 40 to 60 sleeping cabins, at a projected cost of less than $10,000 per cabin. Each is a sleeping cabin, not a garden shed – ADA-compliant cabins with beds, storage for personal property, room for a pet and some basic furniture. We continue to look at designs that optimize the use of passive solar solutions and limited electrical service to contain costs.

Safe Ground is supported by volunteer professionals who have worked with our homeless leaders to design the sleeping cabins and community buildings, which will contain sanitation facilities (restrooms, showers and laundry), a community kitchen and dining facilities, and meeting rooms to house outreach services. Safe Ground will seek private funding through grants, private donations and an adopt-a-cabin effort.

The city of Sacramento has stepped up and is actively working with us. Safe Ground experts have narrowed the original city list of 2.5- to 5-acre parcels down to six, and city officials are reviewing those properties. Safe Ground is optimistic that the acquisition of a parcel for the prototype Safe Ground community is near; however, our sense of urgency is increasing as time passes.

Regarding the current situation on the American River Parkway, recent homeless sweeps forced all campers to relocate. In justifying this harassment of the campers, the county announced the provision of 32 additional Salvation Army shelter beds for 60 days and a 30-day extension to the winter sanctuary program. The 32 beds were offered to Safe Ground campers, even though the shelter facility had 166 men and 80 women on an existing waiting list. Safe Ground ethically rejected taking priority over the 246 people already on the waiting list, instead sending only those who are most vulnerable.

While we applaud the efforts of the county supervisor who raised donations, it is not a solution. It is not the kind of creative, out-of-the-box thinking required to develop a solution to homelessness. Instead, admittedly, the county's law enforcement action is driven by the desire to relieve political pressure.

Safe Ground is about a real solution, a transitional housing community with a hub-and-spoke services system, for real people who are suffering right here in our Sacramento community today. We call that a humane approach – a just and proper solution. Safe Ground is anxious to continue to partner with the city and county, as well as private and nonprofit organizations, to achieve mutually acceptable solutions.

Homeless people deserve it, all people do.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Stephen Watters is the executive director of Safe Ground Sacramento Inc.

For more information about Safe Ground, go to

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment. Comments which are abusive, libelous, threatening, or otherwise objectionable may be removed by the editor. Comments which remain posted may or may not reflect the views of the editor. I welcome your comments, suggestions, critiques, and updates.