What has Sacramento’s camping ordinance accomplished?

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My guest this week is Ron Blubaugh, he’s a volunteer attorney with the Tommy Clinkenbeard Legal Clinic, which is on the Loaves and Fishes campus.

Ron, a retired administrative law judge who used to work for CalPERS, now spends his time helping the homeless people deal with tickets for riding the light rail train without paying the fare, and for violating the City’s controversial camping ordinance.

The no camping law is seen by many as an example of the kind of “criminalizing the homeless” that goes on in on lot of cities. Blubaugh says more so in Sacramento than other places, a mean streak that he thinks is “in the DNA” of our city.

I’m working on other interviews on Sacramento’s anti-camping law. The question I’m interested in is just this: Is Sacramento’s camping ordinance fair?

Supporters and detractors both say that housing and services are what is needed. Certainly, tent cities and trashing public space (and private space) aren’t long term solutions. But do the homeless people who keep getting the tickets, sometimes racking up ridiculous fines, actually have a choice other than to keep breaking the law?

Is the law actually doing anything to prevent people from sleeping outside Here’s a story I wrote about the City’s crackdown on homeless campers in 2003. Here’s a piece by Nick Miller last year. In those dozen years, the number of camping tickets has gone up, but little else has changed. What has this approach accomplished?

Blubaugh thinks the law punishes people based on their housing status, which for the homeless can’t be helped. In other words, it punishes poor people for being poor. That sounds like a no win situation.

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