By Crescenzo Vellucci
The Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
SACRAMENTO, CA – The Sacramento Homeless Union—which had to go to court to finally receive permission to “tour” the City of Sacramento’s Miller Park Safeground—said Friday it found “problematic health and safety concerns” at the site for the unhoused people stashed there by the city.
Photographs and other evidence, the union said, will be provided to the courts, noting in exclusive comments to The Vanguard, “These hazards to the health and safety of those fenced in at Miller Park ‘Safeground’ are obvious and in plain sight. Risk of electrical short, fire, locked gates, no covers on the tents.”
The union also charged the “city refused to permit us to talk to residents which, of course, seriously compromised the inspection. There was no such restriction in the Court’s order to the City to permit us to do the walk-through…some residents approached us at the fence and told us ‘they weren’t allowed to talk to us.’”
“Why wouldn’t they let residents talk to us if they wanted to? What is the City afraid of? The idea of conducting an inspection into conditions at the site but being prevented from hearing from the directly-impacted residents, themselves, would be laughable if the issue of their safety wasn’t as serious as it is,” said Homeless Union chief counsel Anthony Prince
The multi-day preliminary tour, said Prince in a letter to the City of Sacramento Friday, revealed an area that subjects those in tents to the intense summer heart.
“(T)he City has not supplied canvas tents or erected shade-producing canopies to the tents that were in the direct sunlight, which constituted approximately 40 of the 47 tents we observed,” said Prince.
He added, “The ambient temperature during the tour (3:35 pm – 4:30 pm) was 88 degrees Fahrenheit and the asphalt temperature (where the tents are located) was 121 degrees F. indicating heat stored during the day’s peak temperatures of +90 degrees F. being released.”
He added labels on the tents “indicate they are flammable.”
Prince also singled out the drinkable water situation, explaining “a white colored garden hose” appears to be the sole source of alleged “potable, cool water”—although labeling did not describe it was such—and no bottled or filtered water was provided.
Those touring the area also noted, “Extension cords were lying in large puddles of water that had formed as the result of a steady, significant leak from the hose going to the device that provides mist. Several extension cords were connected together which were unprotected in any way from foottraffic, damage from animals, or other physical damage.”
Prince said the union also spotted a potential hazard in a storage facility, designed, he said, to hold the “refrigerator, food and other supplies, (had) a junction box from which electrical wiring was visible, was lacking a cover and a length of wiring had fallen and was unsupported was hanging from what appeared to be some form of black tape that had come loose.”
But the union also said, although it was told the fridge was for storing medications, there was food co-existing in the appliance. Prince charged “it is a violation of health and safety codes for food and medication to be stored together in a refrigerator being provided for communal use by the City or its contractors.”
The union also said, at locations of the camp’s porta-potties, “gates that are opened to facilitate servicing of the units are chained and locked with a padlock. We were told that staff has the key to the locks…at the end of the fenced-in area the furthest from the main entrance, (but) there is no gate or other means for residents or staff to escape (or) for emergency personnel to enter in the event of fire or other emergency. There is only the front entrance.”
“We are very concerned about this situation and would like to be provided with the results of any fire or code enforcement inspections that have taken place and and/or documents reflecting the legality of this arrangement,” the union added in its statement to the city.
“Although we are in the process of consulting with experts and otherwise conducting research into what we observed and learned on the tour, we feel it important to bring to (the public’s) attention now the most obvious and problematic health and safety concerns,” said the union statement, adding “There are other concerns which we will bring to the City’s attention.”
“We urge the City to take immediate steps to address the conditions listed here…there is nothing preventing the City from sending the necessary personnel, etc. to observe these obvious situations and take remedial measures as we move into this weekend’s intensifying heat,” the union noted.