By Crystal Rose Sanchez
Special to the Vanguard
SACRAMENTO – The parcel of land at 5700 Stockton Blvd – the subject of Part 3 of “Where’s the Housing” – had approximately 200 unhomed long term residents where there was once a standing motel and trailer park. After the tear down of the structures years ago the people from the buildings remained and were promised first preference of the affordable housing that was never built.
So, those remaining built a community on the land and organized the best with what they had. They became family and protected each other. Outside advocates, church groups and many others would bring out necessities of food clothing hygiene. Advocates frequently requested from the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and Sacramento City Council humane necessities like trash restrooms and dignity to the people on the streets.
The first wave of eviction notices appeared in January 2019. But not without controversy. A protest was planned, but the eviction did not happen at that time because of news media presence, protests and no solutions.
The Homeless Outreach Team, which is a specialized team of Sacramento Sheriff Dept., then elected to do a resourcing event. What many people do not know is that this was a resource-less event. In fact, the only resource available was a medical bus.
Three unhomed advocates researched and investigated the resources. They were given business cards. When one asked “where is my shelter now I want off the streets now” they were told that this is not how it works and handed a business card.
And, I personally knew and understood the operation of the railroad shelter at the time. The only way into railroad shelter was through a police escort. So, I asked a Sheriff’s deputy if they could escort a woman who had a medical issue to the shelter, but I was referred more than one time back to a table of empty resources.
Fast-forward to May 1, 2019 (5:52 a.m.) when Black Zebra Productions filmed Stockton evictions documentary. As Black Zebra and Jeoffrey Zingapan start recording, KCRA 3 is live, speaking of the eviction of illegal campers and how demonstrators are protesting the cleanup of the camp.
That wasn’t a true statement. People were there to demand appropriate resources and shelter for the people being displaced.
The documentary starts by showing the encampment and the reading of Northern CA Legal Services letter to SHRA and Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. The letter states that if they were to go through with this eviction, they would be breaking the 4th 8th and 14th amendments.
The documentary shows the fears and struggles of the people about to be displaced. County supervisor Patrick Kennedy, civil rights attorney Mark Merin, Lawrence Lee from Northern CA Legal Services planned to meet with the leadership group and advocates later that day.
But, in the meantime, the unhomed planned to stand their ground. And were cleaning up the site in fear of the sheriff’s threats of eviction, though they felt hopeful because Supervisor Kennedy was meeting with them later to discuss a self-governed safe ground on the lot.
The protestors lined up in front of the gate protecting those inside. The Sheriff Dept. arrived about 40 cars deep. Protestors told the deputies that a county supervisor (Kennedy) said he was going to stop these actions. But deputies shoved past the protestors in force, confronting people and shaking tents, threatening arrests but offering no solutions.
The video clearly shows this. Again, this was the homeless outreach team that’s supposed to help with resources. The sheriff’s helicopter was circling from above and the police on the speaker horn screamed it was an “unlawful assembly.”
Finally, deputies stormed the gate as protestors tried to keep the gates open to ensure the legal team and others were allowed to protect the residents from police intimidation and harm. The deputies then trapped many protestors in between the site’s gates, nearly crushing them. Others were shoved. One resident had her arm broken while she was trying to return to get her personal belongings.
Deputies eventually closed the gates and locked them, with people inside. A baton-wielding SWAT squad in full tactical gear was stationed in front of the gates The documentary intense footage vividly shows more than 100 residents, business, advocates, police and reporters in heated discussions about the conditions and inhumanity and reasons for this eviction.
As the documentary ended there were people in tears. At a question and answer period following the showing of the documentary, Mackenzie Wilson, Jeoffrey Zingapan and I did our best to explain what had happened that day.
The most common questions included, why is it like this, where is the housing, and how is Sacramento in this condition? We explained the issues of non-affordable housing and no rent cap, just cause and other legalities, and even the struggle to get this issue on the ballot.
We discussed how this affects people and pushes them into homelessness. We also discussed what we as a community can do to work on these issues – for instance, Sacramento Tenants Union meets twice a month to work on these issues and collaborate with other groups to bring substantial change to our community.
Black Zebra Productions captured the real narrative of Sacramento’s secret crisis. While many of the mainstream media focused only on the excitement of police and protests, this documentary illustrates real conversation with those in the struggle and tells the real stories of the unhomed, not stories about them.
Both the Sacramento Tenants Union and Black Zebra Productions are speaking and walking the walk of the realities and situations that the housing and homeless are facing every day in the Sacramento housing crisis.
(Organize Sacramento was the site Aug. 5 of a standing room only crowd of people who wanted answers regarding Sacramento’s housing and homeless crisis. Sacramento Tenants Union screened “Where’s the Housing,” a documentary by Black Zebra Productions of the Stockton Blvd Eviction earlier this year. Crystal Rose Sanchez explains the impact of the documentary and how what happened at the eviction traumatized Sacramento. See: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2729832810423842)