Sitting on the edge of a collection of about 60 tents pitched along the American River, Twana James is trying to comfort a friend at the end of her days.

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The woman was waiting for a caseworker from a non-profit to pick her up and put her on a housing list.

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A shelter that provides food, showers, and counseling is where James gives her a ride. She made a comment about her friend’s hair that elicited a laugh.

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It is the sort of thing James does quite a bit. He has been a resident of this camp in California’s capital for many years, and he is also the caretaker for many of the elderly people who call it their home.

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The tents are located on a beautiful plot of land along the American River. A short walk from a busy road, the camp feels like a world away from the nearby office buildings and a Mexican restaurant.

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The unhoused population has gone up all over California, but the increase in Sacramento has been particularly striking.

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Since the beginning of the year, the region has seen a 70% increase in homeless people. Almost 10,000 people are estimated to be without a home, with the majority of them sleeping outdoors or in vehicles. 

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The city acknowledges the unfolding emergency but has struggled to come up with meaningful solutions that match the scale of the problem, as housing prices continue to climb. 

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As tensions grow over how to respond to the growing number of unhoused people in the city, homelessness is on the ballot.

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Proponents say it is a needed shift from the status quo to address homelessness, while opponents say it would not solve the problem.

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