Aug. 24 (UPI) — Sacramento County officials adopted a ban on camping on the American River Parkway and blocking city sidewalks and business entrances in an effort to crack down on homeless camps.

City and county elected leaders voted unanimously to approve three ordinances banning encampments from public spaces.

County supervisors adopted ordinances prohibiting camping along the entirety of the American River Parkway and Dry Creek Parkway as well as flood levees, fire risk zones and near homeless shelters, schools and libraries.

The vote came as several fires have been sparked along the American River, which fire officials suspected to be manmade.

Homeowners in the area also said that encampments in the area made it unsafe for their children to walk to school while also making it difficult for wheelchair-bound individuals to use the sidewalk.

“This is not acceptable, city sidewalks are the most basic amenity,” Jenna Abbott of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce said. “We’re not trying to penalize people who are homeless but we are trying to make our city a better place.”

The American River Parkway Foundation estimates that 2,000-3,000 unhoused individuals camp in the parkway.

The foundation urged the county after Tuesday’s meeting to open more shelter beds.

“We’re experiencing environmental and humanitarian crises we’ve never seen before. But focusing only on enforcement will lead to whack-a-mole and never truly address the issue,” Dianna Poggetto of the foundation said. “More shelter space and services will help the unhoused get off the streets.”

Sacramento County spokesperson Janna Haynes said that both ordinances will go into effect on Sept. 23 but strict enforcement will be put on hold once the date arrives as the county continues to work on expanding shelter space and housing for the unhoused.

“Nothing is going to drastically change in 30 days,” Haynes said. “There will not be widespread sweeps of encampments, and I know for some people that’s a relief and for some people that’s frustrating depending on what side you are on.”

“But the county is still really committed to making sure that people are assessed for what their needs are, to see where we can meet their needs before we move people off these areas,” Haynes said.

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors passed a measure stating that people can be cleared from camps on the parkway even if officials cannot offer them a shelter bed.

However, the Sacramento City Council passed an ordinance that allows people to be cleared from sidewalks only if they are given another location to go to, although the type of location was not specified.

Mayor Darrel Steinberg introduced a companion resolution stating that although violating the ordinance would be a misdemeanor but people will not be jailed or fined “to the fullest extent practical” allowing the city attorney’s office and police department to fine or jail individuals “only in those extraordinary circumstances where there’s danger.”

A ballot measure allowing city officials to clear more encampments is set to be put to voters in November, pending the result of a lawsuit seeking to remove it.

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