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Sacramento Considers Costly Plan To Clean Up Illegal Homeless Camps

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento County leaders will soon discuss a robust and ambitious plan to both remove people living illegally in encampments along the American River and give them a place to temporarily get back on their feet.

The two-fold plan will be hashed out at the next Board of Supervisors meeting when the budget is discussed. If approved it would have a dramatic impact on the thousands of people that call Sacramento streets and woods home.

"I know what I'm doing is breaking the law," said Valerie Price as she walked down the slope to her camp site along the American River.

She's been here for a few days. "because they kicked us out from under the bridge," said Price.

She's been homeless for 15 years. At times, illegally camping in parks and near the water.

"I don't like breaking the law," said Price, "I want to be a person that lives within the confines of society, I'm just not completely there yet."

Her story is like thousands of others. Lately, there has been a surge of complaints about the illegal camps.

Supervisor Phil Serna says the winter floods forced people to relocate to higher ground that was more visible to the passing public. Right now, there are 25 park rangers, and a hand full of maintenance crews that patrol and clean vacated homeless camp sites.

"We're not doing well," said Serna. "That's evidenced by what we're seeing on the parkway."

Serna is proposing beefing up the parks department resources to deal with impacts of homelessness by possibly doubling the department's budget from about $13 million to potentially $26 million.

"Spending to make a positive impact where it's needed most," explained Serna.

Fires, hazardous material, garbage can be left behind by some at the homeless camp sites.

"We're seeing many dump sites and homemade latrines," explained Serna who toured parts of the American River last week.

Serna says now is the time to increase the enforcement and cleanup efforts because the county is also considering solutions to help people get off the streets. The creation of a county operated full service shelter.

"This would be a first of it's kind from that respect," said Serna.

An $8.6 million full-service shelter would include overnight stays, kenneling for pets, and medical and addiction services.

"We want folks to come off the river, from underneath the overpass and have a chance to stabilize," said Serna.

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