By Cres Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
SACRAMENTO, CA – Legal counsel for the Sacramento Homeless Union Tuesday threatened 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.
The deadline for the city and county to comply is 12 Noon Wednesday, according to a letter to the city and county for the Sacramento Homeless Union authored by Anthony D. Prince, General Counsel, California Homeless Union/Statewide Organizing Council.
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.”
The letter also demands 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 areas where there is shade should 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, “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.”