Sacramento Homeless Union Claims City of Sacramento Lying about State of Talks Involving Displacement of Scores of Disabled, Older Unhoused

“Photos provided by Sacramento Homeless Union”

By Crescenzo Vellucci

The Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO, CA – The Sacramento Homeless Union, after suing the city of Sacramento earlier this week for breaching a contract providing space—called “Camp Resolution” —for scores (about 50) disabled, older unhoused to live, Friday charged the city is lying about the status of talks between the parties.

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“It’s time for the City to do the right thing, tell the truth, rescind the Notice of Lease Termination and honor its contractual obligations,” the union stated Friday.

“We have been ready to talk from day one, but not with a virtual gun at our heads,” headlined a statement issued by the union Friday in reference to the city “falsely” claiming the union does not want to meet to resolve differences.

Safe Ground Sacramento Director Mark Merin, said the union, also released comments, telling the city, “You have brought this lawsuit on yourselves.”

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

If the union fails to gain a positive ruling from the court, it claims scores of homeless will be tossed into the streets June 1.

The union wrote Friday, “City of Sacramento spokesman Tim Swanson is all over the news falsely claiming that the Homeless Union refuses to ‘come to the table’ to discuss Camp Resolution.

“But the truth is that over three weeks ago, Union President Crystal Sanchez, Camp Resolution founder Sharon Jones, Union attorney Anthony Prince and Safe Ground Sacramento (SGS) Executive Director Mark Merin all met with Assistant City Manager Mario Lara and representatives of the City Attorney’s office at City Hall.”

The union, in its Friday announcement, added, “We told Asst. Manager Lara that the Union, which represents the residents of Camp Resolution, was more than willing to discuss anything and everything about the Camp but only if the City first rescinded the Notice of Lease Termination that Mr. Lara himself signed on March 28, 2024 in violation of the procedures required under Lease Term No. 25. With a roomful of witnesses present, Asst. Manager Lara refused.”

“We have been ready to talk from day one,” said Sanchez, “but not with a gun at our heads,” adding “Safe Ground Sacramento, which holds the lease for Camp Resolution, has told the City that they are in complete agreement with the Union and will not engage in any further discussions until and unless the City first withdraws the Lease Termination Notice.”

The union Friday said the “City sent a letter to SGS a letter demanding that the organization indemnify and defend the City against the Union’s claims.” 

But, the union noted, SGS Director and attorney Mark Merin replied, “You have brought this lawsuit on yourselves,” and added the suit “was a response to the City’s willful misconduct of giving notice of lease termination” and “without complying with the clear terms of the lease.”

Merin concluded, “If Safe Ground Sacramento were to ‘defend’ the city, we would immediately withdraw the notice of termination and, I expect, the litigation would be terminated.”  

“Anyone who witnessed Wednesday’s dramatic march and City Hall protest by dozens of Camp Resolution residents and supporters and has read the Union’s lawsuit knows that we are determined not to be bullied into ‘talks,’ not with the looming threat of eviction only two weeks away, not with this ‘Sword of Damocles’ hanging over our necks,” the union wrote in its Friday statement.

The union called the lease, made April 3, 2023, an “unprecedented Land Use Agreement” between the city of Sacramento, Safe Ground Sacramento, Inc. and resident 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, 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.”

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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