Sacramento's Growing Tent City

A tent city is burgeoning in Sacramento, Calif., prompting local officials to consider whether such an encampment should be made permanent, with plumbing and all.
March 12, 2009, 8am PDT | rbregoff
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The primitive settlement sits in the shadow of the state capitol and is home to about 300 people who have no toilets or running water, creating unsanitary conditions that advocacy groups worry could promote diseases like cholera. With the downturn in the economy and more working-class people losing their jobs and their homes, the tent city is expanding.

The mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson, said in an interview that he wants to create a permanent tent city for the homeless, although he is not sure where it should be. He said he recognized that doing so would be difficult politically. But he said a permanent site could bring sanitation services and regulations like a ban on drugs and alcohol.

Mr. Johnson said that the rise in homelessness was a regional problem, and that surrounding localities should help pay for any solution, like establishing a permanent tent city. He will also have access to $2.3 million that President Obama's stimulus package is giving Sacramento to deal with homeless issues.

"We've tried to sweep the homeless under the rug and it's been our dirty little secret for far too long," said the mayor, who took office three months ago and whose status as a former Phoenix Suns basketball star has helped attract media attention to the tent city. "We've been relying on good Samaritans and nonprofits, but they're overwhelmed now."

Thanks to Rob Bregoff

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Published on Wednesday, March 11, 2009 in The New York Times
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