The lawsuit, announced on Tuesday, accuses city officials of neglecting the homelessness crisis and allowing conditions to deteriorate to levels likened to "third-world countries."
Ho lambasted city officials for their failure to enforce ordinances related to homelessness. In a press conference held on Tuesday, he revealed that the homeless population in Sacramento has surged by 250% over the past seven years. He pointed out that the city now has a larger homeless population than San Francisco.
The District Attorney described the situation as a "descent into decay," accusing officials of permitting the city to "collapse into chaos." He argued that the city's reluctance to enforce the law has led to "an erosion of everyday life where we forget what it feels like to be safe."
Before initiating the lawsuit, Ho had been locked in a dispute with the city, urging officials to clean up homeless encampments and enforce the law consistently. His office conducted a survey of nearly 3,000 residents to gauge the impact of unchecked homeless encampments on their quality of life. The residents reported incidents of physical and verbal assaults, fires, littering, public nudity, sex acts, and defecation.
Ho warned that the city is at its "breaking point" and is "stuck between compassion and chaos." He emphasized the need for compliance and enforcement of existing laws during the press conference. He quoted an email from the city attorney, stating, "The [Sacramento Police Department] is simply not issuing citations for unlawful camping, unlawful storage, sidewalk obstructions, or any of the homeless ordinances."
The attorney further noted that they had received zero citations for referral for prosecution, adding, "We can't prosecute cases if cases aren't presented to us."
Ho expressed his frustration, stating, "Not a single prosecution by the city attorney's office or by the city in the last year. Not a single one." He questioned the city's commitment to enforcing its laws and whether there were procedures at the city level that made law enforcement inefficient.
According to Ho, the city's failure to enforce the law has compromised the safety of those living in homeless encampments, city residents, and business owners. The lawsuit calls for the city to expand its existing ordinance that permits homeless individuals to camp around city hall at night to encompass the entire city. It also requests that the city provide real-time updates on available shelter beds accessible to law enforcement.
In response to the lawsuit, Sacramento's Democratic Mayor Darrell Steinberg claimed that the city has made hundreds of beds available to the homeless and created affordable housing units. He stated, "We are working day and night to enforce our laws and provide relief to our community while avoiding the futile trap of just moving people endlessly from one block to the next."
Steinberg dismissed the lawsuit as a "performative distraction" from the hard work needed to address this complex social problem. He called for "real partnership from the region's leaders, not politics and lawsuits."