Desmond Talks 'Stay Safe' ConcernsMay 26, 2022 12:00AM ● By Story and photos by Susan Maxwell Skinner
Sacramento County District 3 Supervisor Rich Desmond was interviewed by the Carmichael Times last week and said his office will be hosting the first community forum on this aspect of the homeless issue this summer.
CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) - A recent media report that a “Safe Stay” refuge for the homeless would be located in central Carmichael has many residents and merchants up in arms.
The suggested site (wrongly identified in the Sacramento Bee as 6649 Fair Oaks Boulevard) would in fact be on two acres behind the Carmichael Library, accessed from La Vista Avenue. The lot is County-owned; a block from a business zone that has long suffered transient occupation.
Though jabs of “NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) greeted some outrage, objectors noted that Carmichael and its businesses have already tolerated much. Fielding complaints was District 3 representative, Rich Desmond. The Supervisor responds here to questions from the Carmichael Times.
Q: What else did the Sacramento Bee get wrong?
Desmond: “The report indicated the Carmichael site – plus others in the county – were already vetted and approved. That’s not the case. Nothing will move forward until more evaluation and community input has occurred. I won’t support selection of any site unless there’s confidence it would bring relief to the unsheltered and to communities. These sites would be temporary facilities. They won’t be there forever. And if they don’t work, we can shut them down.”
Q: Why the Carmichael location?
Desmond: “It’s estimated 200 homeless people are in Carmichael streets and parks. The crisis has a dramatic impact on businesses and neighborhoods. We have an obligation to help vulnerable people and the community. We must strike the right balance in finding something that will help. To quote Franklin D Roosevelt: ‘We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at any moment. If it doesn’t turn out right, we can modify (plans) as we go along.’”
Q: What would the site offer?
Desmond: “We’ve learned much from mistakes made at earlier shelters. We envisage a structured community of small sleeping cabins for about 30 people and pets. They’d have communal restrooms, sanitation and dumpsters. There would be 24-hour security. Drug use prohibited; visitors not allowed. Rules of conduct would be applied. Guests would be free to come and go during the day but not at night. The environment we create should encourage people to move off the street. This would not be a walk-up facility; guests would be placed by referral. The site would be for homeless from the immediate neighborhood; we don’t intend it to draw people from other areas.”
Q: How would this help the homeless, long term?
Desmond: “The County would provide behavioral and mental health experts, to get people treatment they need. The County would also work with guests to find permanent housing and employment. Our objective is that anyone’s stay in shelter sites would be temporary. We’d provide an opportunity for people to get off the street and to get support to turn their lives around.”
Q: The taxpayer spent $31 million on Fair Oaks Boulevard beautification. Will this facility stop trashing and crime in our main street?
Desmond: “I’m pursuing an ordinance to prohibit camping and the accumulation of camper equipment withing 1000 feet of any shelter site. But I must stress: the ordinance won’t work without law enforcement support.”
Q: Who would pay for the proposed facility?
Desmond: “The County receives State and Federal funds for sheltering the homeless. We will rely on those.”
Q: Carmichael Library is under siege by campers. How would the library and neighboring merchants be protected?
Desmond: “24/7 security at the shelter site will enhance safety. By locating it behind the library"'and passing the ordinance I mentioned"'we can prohibit camping on library property and nearby. If that ordinance does not pass, I will adamantly oppose this site.”
Q: What say does the public have in this issue?
Desmond: “The public will have a huge role in determining if, and how, this project moves forward. My office will host its first community forum this summer. People will hear from experts on what could be done at the site, and what benefits it could bring. I will hear the voices of constituents who would be impacted.
“I’m ready to listen. I live here. I’m trying to help my neighborhood. The bottom line is this: the status quo isn’t working. We need to find other solutions. What we cannot do is nothing.”