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TUESDAY August 31, 2021: 'THE ISLAND: American River Homeless' by ZUMA Press Newspaper Sacramento Bee Pulitzer prize winning photographer Renée C. Byer, who worked on this special investigation into homelessness in California: As Sacramento's homeless population increases, more and more people are seeking shelter along the banks of the American River. Hundreds of years ago, it was home to the Maidu Indians, who used its resources for their survival. Today, a new group of roughly 400 people have taken shelter along its banks, some of them by choice, and others who are forced to call it home. 'The island' a secluded homeless encampment on the river has been home to some residents for decades. The camp's inhabitants speak about their close bonds after county rangers gave notice that the camp could be cleared. Many elders say they have no place to go as they rely on social security checks that just aren't enough with Sacramento's escalating rent. On any given night in Sacramento, nearly 5,600 people are experiencing homelessness. The majority of them are sleeping outside. The city lacks the number of beds needed to shelter everyone. Welcome to 'THE ISLAND: American River Homeless'..
© zReportage.com Story of the Week #799: TUESDAY August 31, 2021: 'THE ISLAND: American River Homeless' by ZUMA Press Newspaper Sacramento Bee Pulitzer prize winning photographer Renée C. Byer, who worked on this special investigation into homelessness in California: As Sacramento's homeless population increases, more and more people are seeking shelter along the banks of the American River. Hundreds of years ago, it was home to the Maidu Indians, who used its resources for their survival. Today, a new group of roughly 400 people have taken shelter along its banks, some of them by choice, and others who are forced to call it home. 'The island' a secluded homeless encampment on the river has been home to some residents for decades. The camp's inhabitants speak about their close bonds after county rangers gave notice that the camp could be cleared. Many elders say they have no place to go as they rely on social security checks that just aren't enough with Sacramento's escalating rent. On any given night in Sacramento, nearly 5,600 people are experiencing homelessness. The majority of them are sleeping outside. The city lacks the number of beds needed to shelter everyone. Welcome to 'THE ISLAND: American River Homeless'..
CATHERINE ROBERTS, 61, returns with supplies for her neighbors in a homeless encampment near Discovery Park along the American River. Roberts, does not have any medical issues, but she knows that's likely to happen soon. She desperately wants an apartment for her and her dogs, but her social security check isn't enough to pay for one. She used to work for Francis House Center, a nonprofit that serves the homeless. Then, when her landlord raised her rent from $500 to $1,050, she became homeless herself. 'Before I do get sick, I would like to be in(side) and live life a little' Roberts said, with tears in her eyes, her hair in two braids. I've raised my kids, I've raised four foster kids. I'm just tired. I'm just tired.'
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
TWANA JAMES, 53, rests with a piece of pizza after she had stayed up all night helping a friend who lost everything in a fire the night before in a homeless encampment along the American River. She said most of the furniture and the TV were found in a dumpster. 'They throw away the darnedest things,' said James. Several tents use a generator to supply electricity.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
ANTHONY PABLO, 52, points inside several tents joined together which he calls home, near Discovery Park along the American River in Sacramento.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
KEVIN BURKE, 64, says he suffers pain in his back, as he rests inside one of two tents he has at a homeless encampment along the American River. Burke who is blind says he is also diabetic, and suffered one heart attack and three strokes in the last four years. Burke has been on the waiting list for a Housing Choice Voucher, previously called Section 8, for eight years, he said. 'Everyone thinks it's easy living out here. It's not. They told me 10 years ago I'd be dead,' Burke said. 'But I'm still here.'
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
The view from inside Twana James tent with other shelters set up among trees at a homeless encampment near Discovery Park along the American River.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
PATRICIA ALVAREZ, 48, popped up through her tent to give TWANA JAMES, (L) a moment with a puppy named Miracle that Twana gave her from a litter of puppies James‚ dog had in a homeless encampment near Discovery Park along the American River. Some of the residents say they have lived there for as long as 30 years.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
TWANA JAMES, 53, is frustrated when she isn't strong enough to pull on a generator cord that supplies electricity at a homeless encampment near Discovery Park along the American River in Sacramento. The generator supplies electric for her and several others at the encampment.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
TWANA JAMES, 53, left, walks with PATRICIA BERRY, 72, as she makes her way with a walker to visit a homeless encampment she once lived near Discovery Park along the American River. Berry suffers several medical conditions and has now found housing but many elders in the camp have not.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
TWANA JAMES is in tears as she realizes her bank account is zero and she can't get ice and water to help other residents in her tent at homeless encampment along the American River. James checked her bank account on her phone and learned she did not receive the social security check she was expecting. She was going to use it to buy water and food for the seniors. She burst into tears. 'Everybody's depending on me,' she said, crying, sitting on her bed, rocking back and forth and waiting on hold.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
PATRICIA BERRY, 72, steps through one of two tents belonging to her son where she was staying temporarily at a homeless encampment along the American River. She was facing several medical issues and is now in housing.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
TWANA JAMES, rests in her tent after staying up all night helping a friend whose tent caught fire at a homeless encampment near Discovery Park along the American River. James, the unofficial mayor of the encampment wishes they had showers and portable bathrooms onsite.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
CATHERINE ROBERTS, 61, does not have any medical issues, but she knows that's likely to happen soon. She desperately wants an apartment for her and her dogs, but her social security check isn't enough to pay for one.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
CARLOS, 67, says he has lived at a homeless encampment near Discovery Park along the American River for over ten years. 'We know we are not supposed to be here, but we are homeless and if I had someplace else to go I'd go there,' he said.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
ROBERT BURTON, 58, who goes by the nickname 'Cowboy' has stage four liver cancer and said he came back to die in the homeless encampment as he clutched his medicine bag near Discovery Park along the American River. He says he has lived in the encampment for 18 years. Burton is now in hospice care.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
RACHELLE BECK, 37, pulls the cord to a generator that is used for electricity for several tents along the American River in Sacramento. She says she has lived in the encampment for the past 14 years.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
TWANA JAMES, 53, wipes tears inside her tent at a homeless encampment near Discovery Park along the American River. She is the unofficial mayor of the encampment and said she is constantly worried that the 60 residents living there, some for over 30 years will be evicted.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
A memorial for Bobby Barker who died a few years ago remains inside a homeless encampment near Discovery Park along the American River. He was the unofficial mayor of the encampment before Twana James.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
Ten year resident GERALD KENNEDY, 64, nicknamed 'Renegade' has a view of downtown Sacramento from his tent inside a homeless encampment near Discovery Park along the American River.
© Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA Press Wire
Renée C. Byer :: zReportage Photo

Renée C. Byer is an American documentary photojournalist best known for her in-depth work focusing on the disadvantaged and those who otherwise would not be heard. Byer’s ability to produce photographs with profound emotional resonance and sensitivity earned her the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in 2007 and made her a Pulitzer finalist in 2013. Renée has covered local, national, and international stories for The Sacramento Bee since 2003. Renée work has been published in books, magazines, newspapers, and on websites worldwide and was the basis for a 2009 TEDx Tokyo talk that received a standing ovation. Renée’s most recent book project “Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor,” invites you to help put an end to global poverty. Renée traveled to 10 countries on four continents to report on this story, with a forward by the Dalai Lama. The book has won numerous accolades worldwide, including the IPA’s First Place for a Documentary book. Byer’s reportage is proudly represented by ZUMA Press and been featured in award winning zReportage.com a record ten times, as well as DOUBLEtruck Magazine. When not on assignment, Renée can be found sharing her passion for photography at lectures and workshops worldwide. Renée C. Byer lives in Sacramento, California, USA.:799



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