The expensive cat-and-mouse game the city of Sacramento is playing with homeless campers and Mark Merin, their attorney and would-be landlord, is futile. Just this past Saturday, police rousted 15 homeless campers from the vacant lot Merin owns north of downtown, arrested them and confiscated their tents and other belongings. Even if the city wins — that is, if the homeless permanently vacate the lot where Merin has allowed them to camp — it loses. Evicted campers will just move to some other illegal camp elsewhere in the city.
We don't condone what Merin is doing. His attempt to set up a campground on land he owns near 12th and C streets has upset the neighbors, and understandably so. No one wants scores of homeless people encamped at their doorsteps. Pedro Hernandez, the elderly gentleman who owns the lovingly restored and immaculately maintained Victorian just across the fence from Merin's homeless campsite, deserves better.
There is a reasonable alternative, one that even Hernandez supports. The city ought to declare a 3-acre site on Bannon Street, north of downtown, safe ground legally available to homeless campers. The plot is owned by the county's housing authority. It sits behind two homeless shelters run by the Volunteers of America and the Union Gospel Mission. It has plenty of shade and running water. It was used as a homeless camp in the 1990s until illegal drug use led to its closure.
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