SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A homeless encampment was blamed for flames that erupted from a broken gas line under a Sacramento bridge back in May. It's just one example of how the City of Sacramento says its homeless are impacting critical infrastructure.
"It can be devastating," explained Daniel Bowers, director of Sacramento City Emergency Management.
The city has the power to remove encampments from critical infrastructure from an ordinance passed in 2020. Now, the city knows exactly where enforcement can happen. A new resolution passed Tuesday prohibits camping 25 feet from more than one hundred sites across the city including bridges, levees, rivers, utilities, hospitals and essential city buildings.
"If those essential services are impeded on, it allows the city to first conduct information awareness to those folks and then to remove that threat to our essential services," explained Bowen.
The new enforcement is a response to incidents including homeless causing damage to levees, fires in the parkway, and vandalism at city facilities. Violations could cost anywhere from $250 to $25,000 a day.
Dryden McIntosh lives on the American River, a location deemed as critical infrastructure.
"I have nowhere to go," explained McIntosh. "I'm concerned and kind of depressed on it. I'm not happy being forced to move again and again."
Civil rights attorney Mark Merin believes they city's plans to move the homeless are too extreme.
"It's unconstitutional to say to 'Homeless people, you can't be here,' " Merin explained. "The definitions that the city managers come up with are so broad, as to really prevent homeless people from being pretty much anywhere."
The city explained the resolution is essential to protect these sites from further damage and prevent impacts to emergency response.
"It's paramount that we maintain the continuity of essential services at all time," Bowmen said.
Sacramento's Department of Community Response will provide individuals with information on the upcoming critical infrastructure work 2-3 weeks prior to the work and provide resources available to those who are homeless.
In certain locations, homeless will be permanently removed. In other cases, the city will allow the homeless to return after critical work is completed, if they are not causing any damage.
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