Sacramento DA sues city over homelessness crisis

Sacramento DA Thien Ho is hoping a lawsuit will require the city to enforce sidewalk camping ordinances and move the city’s homeless into shelters.

Sacramento County District Attorney Thien Ho announced Tuesday that the county has filed a lawsuit against the City of Sacramento for failing to deal with the city’s sprawling homeless encampments. 

Ho is attempting to get the city to enforce its own ordinances against camping on sidewalks and streets. 


The backstory: This recent dispute between the city and the county dates to July, when Ho met with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg to discuss the homelessness issue. 

  • One month after meeting, Ho sent a letter to the city demanding the city to prosecute codes and ordinances outside of his office’s jurisdiction. He also asked the city to hire four more city attorneys to help with the issue, create more temporary emergency shelter and camping spaces, provide access to real-time data for shelter beds and create a citywide daytime camping ban. 
  • Ho gave the city 30 days to comply before he would take the city to court. 

The big picture: Ho’s lawsuit would require the city to enforce its sidewalk camping ordinances, something that is outside of his jurisdiction with the county. 

  • The lawsuit seeks to get answers on how the city has dealt with the homelessness issue. During a press conference to announce the lawsuit, Ho said Tuesday that his office will demand text messages, emails and documents from the city surrounding the issue. 
  • The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office plans to call 400-500 witnesses to discuss the city’s response to the homeless crisis. 
  • According to the 2022 point-in-time count, Sacramento County had nearly 9,300 homeless people, up 67 percent from 2019. A majority of the county’s homeless live on Sacramento streets, and around 75 percent of the homeless population was unsheltered. 

What they’re saying: Ho said he is seeing Sacramento “collapse into chaos,” which reflects the “erosion of everyday life.” 

  • “The community is at a breaking point,” Ho said. 
  • Ho added, “City Hall allows camping on City Hall property at night, but they don’t allow it during the day. I ask the city to extend the same protection they give to themselves to the rest of us.” 
  • After the press conference, Steinberg responded in a statement, saying Sacramento has done more than any other local government in the region to address the crisis by adding 1,200 new emergency beds and enacting ordinances to protect sidewalks, schools and other sensitive sites. 
  • “Frankly, we have no time for the District Attorney’s performative distraction from the hard work we all need to do together to solve this complex social problem plaguing urban centers throughout the state and nation,” Steinberg said. “The city needs real partnership from the region’s leaders, not politics and lawsuits. Let’s just do the work.”
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