By Cres Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
SACRAMENTO, CA – Despite daily 100 degree temperatures for most of the past week, a U.S. District Court here has denied a petition for an ex parte temporary order by the Sacramento Homeless Union that sought to require the city and county of Sacramento to “protect” the unhoused from the heat.
The Union said it was “disappointed by the decision of the district court to deny our motion for a temporary order filed earlier yesterday regarding the failure of the City and County of Sacramento to take measures to protect the unsheltered from the extreme heat we continue to face.”
But the Union said it was looking forward to a July 8 hearing to make its case before a federal judge, and would be “gathering the evidence with which we hope to convince the Court that a mandatory injunction is necessary to protect the unsheltered from extreme heat in Sacramento.”
The federal court, according to a statement released by Anthony D. Prince, General Counsel, California Homeless Union/Statewide Organizing Council, is expecting “evidence…the City is planning the imminent destruction of encampments currently shaded from triple-digit temperatures.
“We intend to present such evidence — and more — to show that the City and County must offer more than a handful of part-time cooling centers; more than pushing the homeless onto the sweltering streets and sidewalks; more than locking the unhoused into the City’s dangerously overheated ‘Safeground’ tents,” said Prince.
The Union said it’s calling on “the media, the church, elected officials — and in particular, those organizations that claim they are against the sweeps and on the side of the homeless — to join our lawsuit, to help gather the evidence we need, to sign declarations and be prepared to testify to the failures of the City and County to protect those most at risk for heat-related injury and death.”
Prince filed, on behalf of the Sacramento Homeless Union, his ex parte application Friday after threatening last Tuesday to take federal legal action against the city and county of Sacramento if they do not immediately take “measures” to provide cooling centers during the current heat wave that predicts temperatures at 100 degrees or more from Tuesday into next week.
He implored the city and county to, among other things, “declare a local public health extreme heat emergency and take all and every measure to protect and preserve the health of the unhoused, open cooling centers for 24 hours a day for the ‘duration’ of the summer, make available all ‘vacant’ city and county owned or managed properties for the unhoused.”
In his letter to the city and county of Sacramento, the Union demanded the city and county provide “transportation” for the unhoused to the cooling centers.
Prince said the “existing requirement of three forecasted days of 105 degrees before cooling centers can be opened must be discontinued,” charging it was a “scientifically unsupported” policy that violates “pertinent portions of the California Health and Safety Code, the Welfare and Institutions Code, the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
“The science behind the very serious risk of great bodily harm and even death from exposure to extreme temperatures is well known and otherwise readily available to the county and its various public health agencies and departments,” wrote Prince.
The letter to the city and county charged “homeless persons are being forced” into areas where “tents are in direct contact with concrete and asphalt surfaces where temperatures are dangerously and unbearably high and carry the risks of heat stress, heat stroke, hyperthermia and death,” and urged “sweeps” that move the homeless out of area where there is shade end immediately.
Prince argued, “For a homeless person, particularly the elderly, those with disabilities and underlying medical conditions that can be aggravated by heat, the physical work involved in gathering up belongings in triple-digit heat and being forced to go somewhere else in triple digit heat is extremely stressful in and of itself.”
For the homeless, explained Prince in his letter, there is “absolutely no alternative, accessible indoor shelter or housing of any kind is being actually provided in violation of the command of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Martin v. Boise case.”
He added that the city and county “must assign and/or reassign all non-essential personnel and utilize all available city and county vehicles, go to all locations where homeless persons are found and use public address equipment to inform unhoused persons that they will be provided with transportation to safe, indoor and accessible locations.”
The Homeless Union also insisted, per the letter, the city and county “must provide clean, safe, potable water in sufficient quantities such that it is available on a 24-hour basis to the unhoused.”
Finally, Prince demanded the city and county must immediately stop, for the summer, the “clearing of existing homeless encampments; (and) forced relocation to ‘safe ground’ camps and/or other ‘sanctioned’ locations where exposure to the heat cannot be eliminated.”