By Mianna Muscat and Macy Lu
SACRAMENTO- – The Sacramento Homeless Union revealed details of a recall campaign at a news conference this week to remove Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg from office, in light of what they say is his passivity towards the homeless population and the City’s housing crisis.
Earlier this week the humanitarian organization demanded Mayor Steinberg step down or face recall after he had failed to open warming centers during last week’s deadly storm, causing the deaths of at least six unhoused individuals.
“People were soaking wet, people [were] showing up even at Loaves and Fishes naked, no clothing, freezing to death,” said the union’s founding president, Crystal Sanchez. “These deaths and these numbers don’t account for how many people went into the hospital for hypothermia and other issues from that storm.”
Mayor Steinberg missed the Homeless Union’s deadline to resign on Wednesday at 3 p.m., prompting the union to reaffirm their intent to recall during a press conference the next day.
To illustrate the City’s neglect towards its unhoused members, The Sacramento Homeless Union invited Warren Bryan, a former homeless man, to share his experience with the emergency housing crisis.
Living in a tent on the streets of Downtown/Midtown Sacramento, Bryan struggled to care for his wife Donna who needed electricity for her COPD, a chronic inflammatory lung disease.
Unable to get resources, the couple became regulars at the emergency room. Relief came when they were eventually admitted into a program which allowed Donna housing while receiving treatment.
Unfortunately, most aren’t as fortunate as Donna. Bryan related his experience with the homeless community’s struggle in the recent storms:
“It’s not exactly right for people to be out in this cold. There are resources that are supposed to be offered—I mean some people may not have the medical conditions my wife had that would require emergency housing to get them off the street.”
Bryan stressed the homeless community’s need for resources in times of crisis. His story emphasized Steinberg’s failure to open warming centers during the recent storm that had already claimed six lives, said the Homeless Union.
Sadly, the mayor’s indifference for the homeless is an ongoing issue, the union said.
Multiple times throughout the conference, the union’s legal attorney, Anthony Prince, and its founding president, Sanchez, noted their fervent efforts to bring the homeless crisis to the forefront of the mayor’s agenda to no avail.
“We literally have written letters over the years, we have gone back and forth with City Council, we have dealt with the statewide task force, we have promoted solutions and given ideas, and it doesn’t come to the attention until massive deaths like this happen,” said Sanchez.
Therefore, as Prince highlighted, the recall campaign is not based on this one time failure to take action “but Darrell Steinberg’s entire track record of failing to protect homeless people.”
“We believe Darrel Steinberg is two-faced,” Prince underscored, “that on the one hand, he voices sympathy for the homeless and is very upset people died…the night of the storm, but his actions don’t match his words.”
Since taking office in 2016, the city of Sacramento has seen the deaths of 500 unhoused individuals, with 100 taking place last year alone, Prince said, adding that the most poignant evidence for the city’s neglect towards the unhoused, however, cannot be captured with numbers.
“This is not the first time we’ve gotten an apology due to extreme weather,” said Union President Sanchez. “January 23, 2019 in City Council, Darrell Steinberg had to stop the meeting to apologize after people were (by police) swept (from protected area) in 50 miles an hour winds and rainy weather into Caesar Chavez Park.”
Attorney Prince recalled a similar incident that occurred in September of last year, in which “the city announced they would clear people off the levies of Sacramento, supposedly to perform repairs on the infrastructure.”
Prince added that the City then posted lists of shelters for those swept from their encampments; however, when the Sacramento Homeless Union checked, none were operational, though the City claimed to have updated the list only a month before.
“Why did the city post a fraudulent list of shelters that they knew were closed, misrepresenting to the homeless community?” Prince wondered.
Attorney Prince condemned the mayor for his hypocrisy, serving as co-chair of the Statewide Commission on Homelessness and Supportive Housing while failing to fight for the conversion of a River District hotel into emergency housing units for the unhoused.
The project was axed after the state forbade Jamboree, an affordable housing developer, from acquiring the hotel at the seller’s asking price, which exceeded the state’s appraisal value.
Prince also criticized Mayor Steinberg for opposing rent control when “California has more homeless than any other state; 25 percent of all homeless in the United States lie in California.”
“If you fail to support rent control, if you fail to support measures to retain people in their housing, you’re encouraging the development of homelessness,” Prince asserted.
The Sacramento Homeless Union will start the recall process governed by California state statutes for elected officials, specifically the mayor. The first step is sending a letter of intention to Steinberg signed by ten registered voters in the city of Sacramento. Prince states they will send this letter in the next few days.
Once Steinberg receives the letter, the union will prepare a petition for recall. They will need to describe the reason for their campaign in 200 words then gather the signatures of 10 percent of registered Sacramento voters.
After talking with the city clerk and California state officials, Prince estimates that figure as 28,000 signatures in only 160 days. But he is not discouraged by this daunting task.
Prince states, “We are confident we will be able to do that… This is an urgent matter we don’t want to delay, and as long as Darrell Steinberg stays in office, it is our feeling, the more harm he will continue to afflict the homeless community.”
Prince and the Sacramento Homeless Union is calling for a community effort to help this vulnerable population by removing the mayor.
“I want to urge everyone to reach out and contact the Sacramento Homeless Union… It’s on us to hold these elected officials accountable, and this is the mechanism the law provides to do it,” said Prince.
Mianna is a senior at UC Davis studying English Literature and Japanese. She loves reading, archery, playing the guitar, and singing.
Macy is a junior from Orange County, CA studying Communications and English at UC Davis. She loves meeting people, reading, and writing.
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