Sacramento Homeless Community Sues City of Sacramento for Breach of Contract after Residents Told to Quit ‘Camp Resolution’

Possessions of a homeless person on Capital Mall Drive in Sacramento on Saturday, September 11, 2021.(Photo by Robert J Hansen)

By Crescenzo Vellucci

The Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO, CA – The Sacramento homeless community—which seemingly ebbs and flows as a result of the legal efforts by the Sacramento Homeless Union—Wednesday filed a lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court charging the City of Sacramento of violating a lease that allows the homeless to reside at “Camp Resolution.”

The lawsuit named as defendants Sacramento County District Attorney Thien Ho, in addition to Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, City Manager Howard Chan and several assistant city managers.

If the union fails to gain a positive ruling by the court, scores of homeless will be tossed into the streets by June 1 because they’ve been ordered, said the union, to vacate the site by Thursday, May 16, when the court is supposed hear the argument for a TRO (temporary restraining order).

The union called the lease, made April 3, 2023, an “unprecedented Land Use Agreement” between the city of Sacramento, Safe Ground Sacramento, Inc. and residents of Camp Resolution at a city-owned vacant lot at 2225 Colfax St.

The union maintains residents—about 50 people, living in trailers—could stay at the camp “until all residents have been placed in individual, permanent durable housing,” claiming the deal “drew national, even international attention and was heralded by both the city of Sacramento and the union as a breakthrough and potential model of a collaborative approach to the deepening crisis of housing unaffordability and homelessness across the country.”

The legal action seeks an emergency temporary restraining order from the court to stop the closing of the camp until and unless all residents can be moved to permanent housing.

The union, in its pleading, called the city’s summary termination an “ambush,” and noted the “deleterious impacts of homelessness on individuals that lack shelter,” that “includes veterans, women, children, individuals with disabilities, senior citizens and other vulnerable groups.”

The city, said Anthony Prince, the union attorney, last March 28 told Safe Ground it was “disregarding” the lease—in effect breaching he contract—and residents had to leave by May 16.

According to the union’s pleadings, the county’s DA Ho is playing a key role in the lease debate, referencing an April meeting in the City Attorney’s Office, with Safe Ground Sacramento Executive Director Mark E. Merin, Sacramento Homeless Union President Crystal Sanchez, Camp Resolution Residents Council Co-President Sharon Jones and Prince.

The suit claims Assistant City Manager Mario Lara confirmed “the City could easily seek an extension” by the Water Board to allow the camp to continue, but admitted “to all present that the City was under pressure from a lawsuit filed by Sacramento District Attorney Thien Ho charging the City of Sacramento with creating a public nuisance by failing to clear homeless encampments.”

Lara, the lawsuit stated, “also mentioned the District Attorney’s highly publicized, widely reported inflammatory and false statements in local media, regarding alleged conditions at Camp Resolution and his demand that the City immediately close the site…

“Lara, apparently unmindful of the gravity of this admission, confessed an alternative and clearly wrongful motive for ending the Camp Resolution Agreement that the City did not and dared not include in its official Notice of Termination of the Lease.”

Prince said Wednesday “Camp Resolution residents (are) determined to defend their hard-won contractual right to permanent housing,” noting a rally and march in downtown Sacramento saw homeless “holding banners that read ‘nothing about us without us,’” and chanting, “‘What do we want? Housing! When do we want it? Now!’”

Steinberg promised the city would offer all residents an indoor shelter bed before clearing them off the site, stating, “We will not displace you from Camp Resolution without some other alternatives that are safe, dignified and indoors,” Steinberg said during an April 30 council meeting.

Camp Resolution is, pointed out the union, self-governed, and the city does not have to pay costly contractors as compared to the city’s 100-bed shelter at X Street and Alhambra that costs the city about $10 million a year.

Sacramento Homeless Union President Crystal Sanchez said most Camp Resolution residents are over 45 years of age and most have health problems or a disability.

The homeless union’s lawsuit asks the court to order the “Defendants to rescind the March 28, 2024 Notice of Termination of Lease Agreement forthwith; to perform their contractual obligation to continue the Lease… until all residents are placed in individual, permanent durable housing; and for Defendant City of Sacramento be restrained from removing Plaintiffs from or closing Camp Resolution and terminating the Lease.

About The Author

Veteran news reporter and editor, including stints at the Sacramento Bee, Woodland Democrat, and Vietnam war correspondent and wire service bureau chief at the State Capitol.

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