Night of terror: Sacramento homeless lined up for shelter during storm. The doors never opened

Wow Sacramento, when you step in it, you really step in it: Night of terror: Sacramento homeless lined up for shelter during storm. The doors never opened –

The wind blew the rain sideways Tuesday night. Trees that had stood for decades collapsed into homes and streets. And Karen Hunter, a 57-year-old homeless woman and mother of three, lay alone on a mattress in a small green tent under the W-X freeway.

She wouldn’t make it through the night.

Hunter’s friend found her that night, face down in her ripped tent. That’s when Harold Carter got the call: his partner of 27 years had died.

On Thursday, as Sacramento continued to clean up from its most violent storm in years, Carter walked along 26th Street. He saw Karen’s empty tent and was reminded of the loss. He broke down. “She was a warm, loving person,” Carter said. “She was my everything.”

The storm was not a surprise. The vicious winds and torrential rain had been forecast for days. And yet city and county leaders chose not to open emergency warming shelters for the region’s most vulnerable residents. City Manager Howard Chan declined to open a warming center at a downtown library that had sheltered homeless just the night before – despite inquiries from Mayor Darrell Steinberg and at least four City Council members about doing so, The Sacramento Bee has learned.

If Sacramento leaders had acted, Hunter would have gone inside, Carter said.

We knew a major storm was coming. Why did we leave the homeless to suffer in the cold?

We knew a major storm was coming. Why did we leave the homeless to suffer in the cold?

City and county officials did not open warming centers Tuesday night to shelter the homeless. BY RENÉE C. BYER

Homeless communities across Sacramento were ravaged Tuesday night and Sacramento leaders left them out in the elements even though virtually everyone knew one of the worst storms in years was bearing down on our region.

Downtown warming centers couldn’t be used to protect people from 60 mph winds due to useless Sacramento County rules enforced by useless Sacramento County officials. Mayor Darrell Steinberg and his Sacramento City Council colleagues were either too polite or too afraid they would be scolded by their county colleagues. So a stupid rule was followed while the homeless spent a night of terror bordering on cruelty.

This was so Sacramento, where no politician wanted to say anything remotely impolitic and no one was moved or had the guts to break the rules to prevent human suffering. By the time Steinberg lost his temper during a council meeting Tuesday night, it was too late.

Talk was cheap and so was human life.

People died.

People in makeshift tents and lean-tos were left to huddle behind fragile tents that were no match for destructive elements that swamped encampments as if they were on the fringes of Third World capitals. But they weren’t. They were in the heart of the capital of the most prosperous state of the U.S.

“(They were) scared to death,” said homeless activist Crystal Sanchez told The Sacramento Bee. Sanchez spoke of groups of homeless people sending her frantic messages from Tuesday night to dawn on Wednesday.

“I don’t know even how we are going to help them all.”

Half-naked people reportedly shivered and trembled in the cold. Entire camps were blown away or inundated by water and falling debris as the wind howled like an animal seeking prey.

Thanks to Sacramento’s inaction and everlasting shame, Tuesday’s storms found easy prey, helpless prey, and no one did a damned thing until too late.

So let’s get it straight: Tuesday Jan. 26, 2021 should be remembered as a day of utter shame for our city and county. These two entities share a large portion of the blame for a comprehensive collapse in leadership. It resulted in the capital of California, the nerve center of state politics, proving it had no bloody clue how to protect the most vulnerable among us on the worst night in years.

But this was no one-off catastrophe. It didn’t happen by accident and responsibility does not rest solely with the with the city and county. It also belongs to every suburban city in the county. It belongs to us, the residents of Sacramento, who have proved time and again that we don’t care as much about homelessness as we say we do.


I can point fingers, and I will, but I must hold myself accountable first.

In years past, I wrote ignorant columns on homelessness because I was moved by a pervasive feeling shared widely by my Sacramento neighbors. It’s a feeling about homelessness that can be distilled down to simple phrases:

Get it out of my face. I don’t want to see it. Make the cops deal with it.

Those feelings lead Sacramento residents fiercely to oppose any and all shelters proposed by city leaders. It’s always a fight. It always takes longer than it should. The costs of shelters and supportive housing are obscene. And even when you get people housed, more homeless people proliferate.

Based on 30 years of living here and writing extensively about homelessness, I’m left with the sinking feeling that too many of us don’t really care about the issue until it becomes a nuisance for us or until we can point a finger at someone else for the problem.

Every NIMBY and ignorant bystander who simply wants the problem gone shares some blame for what happened. If we could have moved faster to build more shelters before the COVID-19 pandemic, when Sacramento was booming, fewer people would have suffered Tuesday night.

We should all be ashamed.


And the government entity that should feel the most shame is the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, along with the bureaucrats in Sacramento County. The county oversees the largest pots of money for housing and mental health funding and yet the discussion on homelessness always centers on the city.

The county badly handled how to spend $181 million federal COVID-19 relief money. The county is currently led by Supervisor Sue Frost, who is a champ at voting against relief for distressed renters whenever she can. The county government is the entity recently run by people such as CEO Nav Gill, who appeared to undermine the efforts of Supervisors Phil Serna and Patrick Kennedy when they tried to cooperate with the city on homelessness in 2017.

Serna and Kennedy excoriated Gill and his staff for seemingly slow-walking their efforts to forge a multi-million dollar partnership on homelessness. Yet despite this, when it came time to let Gill go, Kennedy was the decisive third vote to keep him around until he was placed on paid leave last November amid misconduct allegations levied against him by several leading women in county health departments.

All this has been evident and publicized. And yet only recently, after so much damage has been done, did advocates turn attention toward demanding more of Sacramento County officials who have so much more to say about homelessness, housing, mental health and drug treatment.

For example: Where is the scrutiny of county officials approving bloated budgets for Sheriff Scott Jones when health services don’t get enough? Where is the public in holding Frost and all the supervisors accountable for their role in creating conditions that led to Tuesday’s shameful abandonment of homeless people in such wretched conditions?

The city cannot be the only answer to homelessness in Sacramento.

And even then, with the exception of Sacramento City Councilmen Jay Schenirer, Jeff Harris and former Councilman Steve Hansen, not enough of the longtime council members have done enough before now. By Wednesday, everyone was scurrying around as if what happened on Tuesday was a terrible surprise. It couldn’t have been.


Steinberg can be faulted for not declaring a state of emergency to open downtown warming centers as he did Wednesday, after the damage had been done. That’s on him and everyone else on the council.

To be fair, Steinberg has done more on homelessness than any other politician in Sacramento in recent years. He was never able to forge a regional effort on homelessness. He said he couldn’t find willing partners. Others said he was too hard to work with.

OK, but Steinberg’s predecessor, Kevin Johnson, wasn’t able to do it either. The urgency on homelessness is felt most acutely in the city and by people such as Steinberg. Leaders in other cities seem fine with having the City of Sacramento deal with it.

Steinberg also doesn’t have as much power as people think he does.

Steinberg tried to strengthen the power of his office last November via Measure A, the initiative that would have given him authority currently in the hands of City Manager Howard Chan. It was roundly defeated, including with the help of many progressives.

Ask yourself this: How did this old system of government work in Sacramento on Tuesday?

Chan, who is not elected, runs the city government and reports to all nine council members.

How did that work? It didn’t. Am I saying passing Measure A would have prevented Tuesday night? No. I’m saying, people in Sacramento don’t want anyone to have too much power. Getting things done takes time in Sacramento and people like that.

But that contributed to leaving homeless people exposed on Tuesday. It did. It was one element in an across-the-board failure.

“I haven’t stopped crying,” said newly elected City Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela, . “A woman died here last night and we knew for five days that this storm is coming.”

To her credit, and in a sign that Valenzuela could prove to be a heartfelt and welcome addition to the council, she held herself accountable.

“I don’t know if I can blame any one person, “ she said. “I wish I had pushed harder for a meeting before Tuesday. We have plenty of folks who could have helped us get in contact with people (on the streets).”

I’m with Valenzuela. I wish I had done more a lot sooner.

Steinberg says he hopes Tuesday will be a turning point, a shock that will change attitudes in our community.

“Maybe the fever is broken,” he said.

Maybe people will stop fighting shelters and realize we have to do more on permanent supportive housing, safe camping, safe parking lots. If they can’t open Golden 1 Center to the un-housed, maybe big Sacramento businesses such as the Kings can use their money and influence to help more people get housing.

Maybe citizens will start demanding that Sacramento County and other communities do much more on homelessness.

Maybe our community will act in order to prevent more suffering made possible by our inaction.

Puget Sound and West regions advance to Phase 2

Woot! Now this is how you reopen safely: Puget Sound and West regions advance to Phase 2 of Washington’s reopening plan on Monday

Seven counties in the Puget Sound and West regions can move to Phase 2 of the “Healthy Washington” plan. Counties need to meet three out of four metrics to qualify. Author: KING 5 Staff

SEATTLE — The criteria for regions in Washington state to move from Phase 1 to 2 of the COVID-19 reopening plan is becoming less stringent, allowing for two regions to move to Phase 2 on Monday, Feb. 1.

Counties in the West and Puget Sound regions will move to Phase 2 on Monday. That includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties in Puget Sound and Grays Harbor, Lewis, Pacific and Thurston counties in the West region.

These counties represent about half of the state’s population, according to Gov. Jay Inslee.

In Phase 2, a maximum of five people from outside of a person’s household can gather indoors and indoor dining is available at 25% capacity until 11 p.m., among other changes. Indoor fitness centers can also open at 25% capacity.

RELATED: Don’t cross state lines for COVID-19 vaccine, Washington health officials say

Under the revised plan, regions will be required to meet three of four health metrics to progress, instead of all four.

The changes follow conversations with public health leaders and the state’s increasing vaccination rates

Homeless shelters

I’ve talked about this last year. Very sad. They deserve better.

Sacramento must stop abandoning homeless people outdoors in storms and winter weather 

Justace Keylo said he was asleep when branches fell on his tent at homeless encampment near Basler Street in Sacramento on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. City and county officials did not open warming centers Tuesday night to shelter the homeless. BY RENÉE C. BYER

massive winter storm barreled through Sacramento on Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, toppling trees, knocking out power and soaking the city in rain. But despite days of warning from weather forecasters about the “atmospheric river” storm headed our way, Sacramento city officials failed to open up indoor shelters for the homeless.

As a result, our city’s poorest and most vulnerable people were left to fend for themselves in the cold, harsh elements. The high winds and falling tree limbs ripped through tents, injuring multiple people and leaving them to struggle unprotected in the streets.

“Wednesday’s storm destroyed encampments across the city,” wrote The Sacramento Bee’s Theresa Clift. “Several tents along the riverfront were crushed by downed trees and branches, injuring people. Cold rain streamed through the flimsy roofs of tents, tarps and campers. Dogs, afraid of the storm, ran loose in the streets. At least one homeless person died, the coroner’s office said.”TOP ARTICLESIs it too late for Sacramento voters to mail in their ballot? No, but be aware of thisHe filmed arrest of man shouting ‘I can’t breathe.’ Minutes later, he was in handcuffsIn a unanimous vote, Sacramento City Council votes “Yes” on landmark public safety resolutionThese tiny homes were going to help solve Sacramento’s homeless crisis. So where are they?Gill’s gotta go: The Sacramento County CEO flouted  COVID rules everyone else has to followLodi City Council candidate arrested in money laundering, internet gambling operation case

Such an outcome was predictable, but a bureaucratic approach to providing winter shelter to the city’s large homeless population left thousands of people out in the cold. City and county rules dictate that the temperature must drop below 33 degrees for three nights in a row before warming centers can be opened. This rule has resulted in more than one unhoused person dying in our streets in the freezing cold over the years.

In December, Mayor Steinberg said the city would open the warming centers any time the temperature dropped below 33 degrees. This was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t help the people stuck outside in last night’s storm Shannon Dominguez-Stevens, director of Sacramento’s non-profit Maryhouse facility for homeless women, said it was “absolutely a disgrace” that city officials failed to open the shelters.

“It’s shameful that in 2021, a city the size of Sacramento can’t pull together and figure out a way to get people sheltered for a night that we anticipated was going to be disastrous,” Dominguez-Stevens told Clift.

Dominguez-Stevens said one woman arrived at Loaves & Fishes homeless center shivering, clad only in a bra and underwear after her tent blew away in the night.

“There’s a huge storm out here. People are gonna die tonight,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg during a City Council meeting on Tuesday night. “We can’t get a goddamn warming center open for more than one night because the county has rules? I’m sick of it.”

Sacramento emergency management officials have warned that sheltering the homeless indoors could expose them to COVID-19. Yet leaving vulnerable populations to fend for themselves in freezing temperatures and howling storms also risks lives. Two more homeless people died on Sacramento streets this week, though it’s not clear if the severe weather played a direct role in their deaths.

“Just confirmed that one unhoused person died last night in my district,” wrote District 4 councilmember Katie Valenzuela on Twitter. “I’m beyond grief-stricken… I’m angry. We can and MUST do better for our neighbors.”

The Sacramento City Council held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to address the situation in the face of a storm that was expected to last most of the week. The City Council declared an “extreme weather emergency” and, according to a press release from Steinberg’s office, the city plans to open several warming centers as soon as possible. The city opened one such center, at the Tsakopoulous Library Galleria, on Wednesday night.

It’s a step in the right direction, but it should have happened sooner. Responding after disaster strikes is not enough. The Sacramento area’s rigid rules for opening shelters have repeatedly failed to protect our most vulnerable citizens, leaving them to suffer and die in inhumane conditions. COVID certainly complicates the situation, but that’s no excuse for our leaders to throw up their hands and do nothing.

Mayor Steinberg has previously called for an end to the three-day rule, and Councilmembers Katie Valenzuela and Mai Vang both called for the city to open shelters as the storm approached. City and county leaders must move with urgency to open up emergency shelters for homeless people struggling in these winter conditions. They must also discard any senseless rules that prevent them from acting quickly in the future.

Love is patient, love is kind

I prefer the path of love vs that of hate. That’s the goal at least. Plus, how you treat those you’re competing with demonstrates the kind of person that you are. Especially when it the position of strength.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but it rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is Love.

Good night, sleep tight

I didn’t realize there was a movie made of Eureka Seven. Very good story about doing anything for the ones you love.

Fall in love all over again in this film set in an alternate timeline within the Eureka Seven universe! As mankind prepares to fire a weapon that will end a half-century war, the world’s fate rests in the hearts of two recently reunited childhood friends.