Ashby: No homeless camps with 500 feet of Sacramento schools

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Students practice soccer inside Sutter Middle School in 2016. Councilman Angelique Ashby proposes an amendment that would ban homeless people from being within 500 feet of schools following an incident on campus from East Sacramento last week.

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Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby is asking for an amendment to a newly enacted ordinance that would keep homeless campers 500 feet from city schools.

“Children should be safe in Sacramento schools,” Ashby said at a Tuesday news conference in McKinley Park with Sacramento City Councilman Jeff Harris and parents of school-aged children who said students were at risk with the number of homeless people camping near schools.

The setting was in the shadow of Sutter Middle School where angry parents say they are concerned for the safety of their children as they head to the junior high campus after recent incidents involving homelessness near school.

“Nothing is done. Nothing. No safe passage was provided for them,” said Tinisha Starbuck, whose 12-year-old daughters are both students at Sutter Middle School. Her husband, Ray, is one of many adult volunteers who guide students along G Street to the East Sacramento campus.

“We shouldn’t have to do this,” Starbuck said of parental escorts. “They should be able to walk to school safely.”

Less than a week ago, a homeless man was arrested by Sacramento police after he was seen shouting obscenities and making sexual gestures at college students as they walked toward Sutter Middle.

The man appeared Thursday intoxicated or exhibiting behaviors indicative of mental illness, said Al Goldberg, spokesman for the City of Sacramento Unified School District.

Principal Cristin Tahara sent a message to the parents, informing them of the incident. She said school staff reported that the man, who appeared to be homeless, was yelling sexual comments at students near the Safeway grocery store, just south of campus.

Sacramento City Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela, who represents the area, said on her Twitter account last week that she shared the concerns expressed by community members.

“Having a sick man shouting obscenities near children is not acceptable,” Valenzuela said in the social media post. “We need to dramatically expand mental health services in (Sacramento County) immediately.”

The complaints come as the city grapples with a rise in homelessness. More than 9,000 people are homeless every night in Sacramento County, according to a recent tally.

Next month, Sacramento voters will see a ballot measure that would allow officials to sweep more encampments and force the city to provide more shelter beds. In August, the council passed an ordinance allowing the city to remove tents from sidewalks if pedestrians cannot use them.

Ashby and Harris want city leaders to amend Sacramento’s Critical Infrastructure Ordinance to include the 500-foot buffer zone around schools, daycare centers and daycares across the city. Ashby and Harris say they plan to present the proposal to the Sacramento City Council at its Oct. 11 meeting.

“Schools should also be on the list. Our children have enough to worry about. They had to worry about the pandemic, they have to worry about COVID. We have a national epidemic of gun violence,” said Ashby, who is running for a state Senate seat in November against former insurance commissioner Dave Jones. “We owe them and their teachers a duty to keep them as safe as possible.”

Stephanie Crowe and her three children live near Sacramento’s Southside Park, just north of Broadway. She recounted how she and her family had been cursed, chased, followed and spat upon when encountering homeless people over the years. She called the prescription a long time ago.

“It’s getting to the point where we have to do something,” Crowe said. “It’s not enough, but it’s a start. As parents, we say, “There’s the line and we’re not going to cross it anymore.”

Councilman Harris, who represented the neighborhoods around McKinley Park and Sutter Middle School until the redistricting this year, insisted the proposed amendment strikes a balance between providing services to homeless people from the city ​​and the application necessary to ensure the safety of residents.

“Homelessness is a tough problem to solve, but we’ve let the pendulum swing too far,” Harris said. “We need to expand the (buffer) area around the schools. It’s just common sense. This strategy is very good.

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Darrell Smith is the Elk Grove reporter for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs and Marysville. Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville, and lives in Elk Grove.

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