Outcomes at Railroad Drive shelter show potential of Mayor's homeless strategy
In its 16 months of operation, Sacramento’s temporary shelter on Railroad Drive proved that the city’s new low-barrier “triage” approach to getting homeless people off the streets can produce better results than traditional shelters.
The people who entered the converted warehouse in north Sacramento were on average older, sicker and had been homeless longer than the population served by other shelters. Yet more of them ended their stay with a placement in permanent or longer-term housing.
They included people like Ramona Jasper and Anthony Moss, who were living in a homeless camp alongside a levee when the Railroad Drive shelter opened just yards away.
Jasper had been homeless for more than 25 years. Unlike other shelters, Railroad Drive let them come together, with their possessions and their dogs.
In August, the couple came to the Sacramento City Council to recount how they reclaimed their lives through their stay in the shelter and their participation in the city’s Whole Person Care program, which targets the sickest people in the homeless population and helps them to obtain needed documents and benefits and connects them to medical, addiction and mental health services.
They described their new life in a little house off Franklin Boulevard with a fenced yard for their dogs.
"I'm happy," Jasper said. "I can cook, I can clean. I can take care of my dogs. I'm going after a life now."
Behavioral and physical health of people entering Railroad Drive shelter
A total of 658 people stayed at Railroad Drive for some period of time. Of those, 264 — or 40 percent — moved out to permanent or longer-term housing, That compares to about 21 percent of traditional shelter residents who transitioned to permanent housing during 2018.
In triage shelters, caseworkers help people obtain needed identification and other documents, qualify for and obtain benefits, get medical care and treatment for mental illness and addiction, find housing and look for work.
“This approach of intensive case management has resulted in double the percentage of people moving through to longer-term housing than a traditional shelter,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “That’s 264 positive exits from abject homelessness to permanent housing or longer-term shelter. That’s just one low-barrier triage shelter. And it’s our first one.”
Mayor Steinberg and his Council colleagues are working on a strategy to create a total of 800 shelter beds citywide— or about 100 in each district.
In April, the City Council voted to move ahead with converting the Capitol Park Hotel downtown to a homeless shelter for about 18 months, at which point it will be turned into permanent supportive housing for people coming out of homelessness. The plan was proposed by Councilmember Steve Hansen, whose district includes downtown.
That vote follows a Council decision in March to pursue a shelter on Ethan Way in Councilmember Jeff Harris’ district.