On July 2, 2009, hundreds of homeless Californians marched on the Sacramento Town Hall to demand "safe ground".
It has been about three months since city officials shut down a large "tent city" occupied by Sacramento's homeless people.
Now, some of the tent city's residents say they feel like refugees, with no place to go. They staged a loud demonstration Wednesday, in hopes of pressuring Sacramento officials to find them a new place to camp.
'Where Am I Supposed To Live?'
Philip Grice, 45, has been on the move ever since the tent city closed.
"When we moved out, we moved over to a private area two fields over. They wanted us off of there too. Just like shuttling cattle, that's all it is," said Grice, a carpenter by trade, who wears a T-shirt that reads, "Where am I supposed to live?" "We're supposed to be the eyesore, but actually we're citizens and we're human beings. We're supposed to have rights like everybody else; it don't matter what we have in our pockets."
Grice joined about 250 other homeless people and their supporters for a march through the northern end of Sacramento.
Their action coincided with the closure this week of a temporary shelter where many of the tent city residents had found a roof for the winter. Now these individuals say they need a year-round legal camp on what they call "safe ground."
No Legal Place To Sleep
The march ended up in a hot and dusty city-owned lot next to a police station, where organizers set up a symbolic occupation. Val Jon Farris, founder of a group called iCare America, set up a tent on the lot.
"There is no legal place for people to live unless they own, rent or lease a home. So if you're homeless it's illegal to exist. You can't even lay your head anywhere without getting arrested, prosecuted or criminalized," said Farris. "So this is a demonstration in order to create a civil liberty that ought to already exist, which is [that] people have the right to be, to live without the threat of being incarcerated in their own country."
The idea of a safe ground for homeless campers divides officials in city hall. The mayor, Kevin Johnson, has been receptive, but others, including the city manager, Ray Kerridge, is not. There is also a disagreement over how much it will cost at a time when the city and county are already slashing basic services.
What is not in dispute is that this week Sacramento has 200 more people with no place to sleep.