By Shuxuan Zhong
SACRAMENTO, CA – Miller Regional Park, located west of Interstate 5 along the Sacramento River, is a legal camping site for homeless people in the Sacramento area. The camp has tents for about 80 homeless people, with bathrooms, showers, fences, drinking water, and various mental health, medical, and rehousing services. The shelter is temporarily closed due to an increased risk of winter flooding in Miller Regional Park from intense winter storms. This measure has resulted in a reduction in the total number of city and county beds to about 2,200. Data shows that there are at least 7,000 homeless people in Sacramento who are unable to access shelter sites.
However, Sacramento does not plan to reopen the shelters after the storm stops. City spokeswoman Jennifer Singer states, “With Miller Park specifically, the city is currently exploring options to better leverage it. As we saw in the recent storm, Miller Park is not an ideal location for a safe ground due to its proximity to the river and vulnerability to the elements. Park Safe Ground as soon as possible.”
Tim Swanson, a city spokesman, states, “As we saw in the recent storm, Miller Park is not an ideal location for a safe ground due to its proximity to the river and vulnerability to the elements.” He also wrote in an email that the decision to close Miller Park was voted on last October because funding would be shifted from temporary housing to affordable housing.
On October 25, 2022, the Sacramento City Council voted unanimously to spend $19 million on affordable housing instead of shelters. “In the end, getting people permanent places to be is the solution.” Kendra Lewis, executive director of the Sacramento Housing Coalition, said, “This gives people hope. And it shows the community that in this time – in these really hard times of housing – that we are working together and that we are serious. We have projects that are going to happen in real-time.”
Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela opposes the decision, arguing that the shelters should be reopened after the storm. In addition, she claims that last October’s vote should not have led to the closure of the shelters. “Not reopening Miller Park makes absolutely no sense,” Valenzuela wrote in a text message to Chan on Feb. 3. 2023. “And doesn’t align with the direction we’ve given as a council, as recently as a week and a half ago when we voted on that contract.”
Downtown resident Julie Murphy said six homeless tents popped up on her block between 27th and 28th G Streets during a week in February. “There’s literally nowhere for them to go. I don’t think they should be shuffled back under the freeway,” Murphy said, “I want somewhere for them to go.”
“It’s not a panacea,” Valenzuela said of the safe ground. “It would be better if we had more space, it would be better if it was indoors. However, until we get better space, we really can’t afford to lose something that is working for some people.”
The city of Sacramento said this week that it will reopen the Miller Park security area and that five travel trailers will serve as shelters for the homeless. These trailers are temporary. Now, the city works with Sacramento County to “identify longer-term sources of emergency shelter that will add hundreds of beds to the City’s current inventory of more than 1,100.”