SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Like many people, Alex Bailey cares about where he lives, even if that means living in a tent along the footpath.
"I’m concerned about my space," he said. "I have a lot of gear. You know, the grounds swept around me, there’s not trash all over the place. You don’t see, hear any rats, mice, whatever. None of that’s here."
Bailey has been unhoused on and off for 12 years in Sacramento and noted that where he sets up his shelter depends on a few criteria.
“Luck and a lot of scouting,” he said. “I try to find places that are jurisdictional overlaps, grey areas that don’t just have one organization to look out for it.”
Bailey’s choices of where to go could be even more limited as lawmakers are calling for a possible ban on encampments statewide within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers, parks and libraries.
The new law is modeled after a similar ordinance in the city of Los Angeles and has bipartisan support.
A similar law went into effect last year in Sacramento that prohibits encampments near critical infrastructure, including schools and day care centers, within 500 feet.
Alix Hall is the executive director of Discovery Tree and Arista Schools, which has locations inside and outside the city of Sacramento. Hall explained how it’s a constant battle dealing with unhoused and the safety of the families at her centers — and her staff.
“Every day, my staff have to do safety sweeps on the playground because the homeless people jump the fence with their animals,” Hall said. “We are cleaning up human feces. We’re cleaning up animal feces, drug paraphernalia.”
Hall added that she agrees with the Sacramento law prohibiting encampments within 500 feet but wants to see more done.
“It solves it for a moment, and then it comes back,” she said.
Bob Erlenbusch is an unhoused advocate and mapped where homeless people are currently banned in Sacramento. He said it’s 40% of the city and that lawmakers' efforts are misguided.
“To elevate it to the statewide level, when elected officials should be trying to figure out, you know, how to expand affordable and accessible housing, rather than banning people from where they are,” Erlenbusch said.
Back at Bailey's shelter, he said he can see both sides of the new proposed state law.
“I’m of two minds on that," he said. "It’s inconvenient for me, and I’ve seen some of the messes left by my contemporaries. So, I know where they’re coming from. I understand."
Even if the law doesn’t get the governor’s signature, Bailey said he always has to be on his toes for new laws that could make it harder for him to camp on public property, while he finds his way to permanent housing.