Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Safe walking on the Sacramento rivers?

I live 5 blocks and work 7 blocks from the Sacramento River and a few blocks more from the American (pictured above).  Like many Sacramentans, I like to bike and walk along them.  Unlike many Sacramentan women, I tend to do it alone.  The question I want to pose here is: is it?

The reason people think it might not be safe is the preponderance of down and out people who camp near the river and hang out there during the days.  The thought is that it isn't safe to be near people at that level of society, they are desperate and they may attack.  I tend to think (based on intuition and observation, but no actual information) that people who are down and out are kind of just scrambling to survive.   Their main needs are food, shelter, water and medication.  They certainly don't have the energy to rape anyone and they're unlikely to want to mug anyone because it would bring police investigation.  One thing they know they don't want is increased scrutiny by the police.

Yet, I have to admit that yesterday, when walking near Discovery Park just north of Old Sac on a gorgeous cold clear day I felt nervous to find myself alone and face to face with a man clearly in need of psychiatric medication, shelter and love.  I was not in position to provide either of the first and sometimes gazing lovingly at people who are not seeing clearly can have its drawbacks so I went for head down quick passing by as the best strategy and kept my cell phone handy.  He shouted obscenities at me but failed to rise from his cozy position next to the fancy water reclamation center.

A quick search reveals that in September a man was shot in the early morning near the American River Bike Trail--he was homeless.  As this Sacramento Bee photo documents above, the river has not always been a friendly place for this population to camp.  All of this leads me to wonder who it is that really should be nervous along the Sacramento rivers--perhaps its not a middle aged middle class woman trying to walk off her middle. 

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