Monday, 28 Nov 2022

Homelessness has risen 70% in Californias capital. Inside the staggering emergency

Homelessness has risen 70% in Californias capital. Inside the staggering emergency


Homelessness has risen 70% in Californias capital. Inside the staggering emergency

Sitting on the edge of a collection of about 60 tents pitched alongside the American River, Twana James is doing her best to comfort a friend at the end of her wits.

All day, the woman says, she had been waiting for a caseworker from a Sacramento non-profit to come pick her up and put her on a list for housing. "You wait all day for somebody to come and get you and they don't come," she cries in despair.

James offers her a ride to a shelter that provides food, showers and counseling. She makes a cheeky comment about her friend's hair, eliciting a laugh.

It's the sort of thing James, 53, does often. She's a longtime resident of this encampment in California's capital, and a caretaker for many of the elderly people who call it their home.

Dubbed the Island, the tents stretch out on a picturesque plot of land along the American River. The camp is a quick walk from a busy road, but feels like a world away from the nearby office buildings and Mexican chain restaurant. The secluded community has been there for decades, forming a tight group over the years. But it has expanded in recent years, as homelessness in the city and county has climbed to record levels.

During the pandemic, the unhoused population has soared all over California, but the increase in Sacramento has been particularly stunning.

The region has seen an almost 70% rise in homelessness since 2019, now counting more unhoused people than San Francisco. At least 9,278 people are estimated to be without a home, the majority of whom sleep outdoors or in vehicles. Encampments can be seen on levees, near schools and next to busy roads.

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