-Mayor Darrell Steinberg
Since Mayor Darrell Steinberg took office in January 2017, the City has embraced a new approach to addressing homelessness that is producing promising results. Teams of outreach workers and police officers repeatedly contact homeless people — many of whom have resisted help for years — and convince them to enroll in its Pathways program, which connects them with health care, removes barriers such as missing Social Security cards and helps them find permanent shelter.
A linchpin in this model is a system of “Rehousing Shelters” built on the low-barrier model considered best practice throughout the country. The word shelter implies to many people an unsafe, crowded living space where people linger with little or no help. That term fails to capture the service-rich housing hubs we seek to build. San Francisco calls them Navigation Centers. In Los Angeles, it’s Bridge Housing. Here, we’re calling them Rehousing Shelters. These shelters use a whatever-it-takes approach to transition people to permanent housing.
In August, 2019, the City Council voted to build a 100-bed Rehousing Shelter under the W-X Freeway near Broadway and Alhambra that is expected to open by winter 2019. Councilmembers also approved a women and children’s shelter on Meadowview Road. Capitol Park Hotel in downtown is expected to reopen as a shelter in September. In addition, 184 beds in existing shelters are being converted to offer the services to get people off the streets.
Adding up all the city’s efforts, an additional 600-plus shelter beds should be open or converted to offer more services within months.
These new shelters build on the considerable success the City of Sacramento had with its first such effort, on Railroad Drive in North Sacramento. From December 2017 to the end of April 2019, the city served more than 650 people at Railroad. On average, they were older and sicker than the general homeless population. Yet 264 people transitioned to permanent or longer-term housing after a stay at the Railroad Drive shelter. That represents 40 percent of the people who passed through, compared with 21 percent of Sacramento County’s traditional shelter occupants who transitioned to permanent housing in 2018.
The City will build on the lessons learned at Railroad to open shelters that will improve the surrounding neighborhoods by bringing people indoors. These shelters take people by referral only; there are no lines outside. And guests can stay all day, so they won’t be dispersing into the surrounding neighborhoods.
Mayor Steinberg has raised millions of private dollars to help expand shelter capacity in Sacramento and secured $20 million in additional funds for the City and County as part of the 2018 state budget process. As the head of the California Big City Mayors group, he has played a key role in lobbying for more state resources to address the state’s most significant public health, safety and humanitarian crisis. Gov. Gavin Newsom included $1 billion to address homelessness in proposed 2019-20 budget, $650 million of which will go directly to local governments.
The City has hired the Downtown Streets Team to clean up in neighborhoods affected by homeless camping. The Streets Team employs homeless volunteers and helps connect them with housing and jobs.
You can help address the issue of homelessness in Sacramento by volunteering through a variety of non-profits and faith groups that provide services and shelter. In January 2019, you will have a unique opportunity to learn more about people who are homeless in our community and make sure we get adequate state and federal funding by participating in the Homeless Point in Time census of the homeless population in Sacramento County.
The City has hired the Downtown Streets Team to clean up in neighborhoods affected by homeless camping. The Streets Team employs homeless volunteers and helps connect them with housing and jobs. The Downtown Streets Team currently focuses on the area around the City’s Triage Shelter in north Sacramento, but it will expand to downtown and the River District when the City receives $5.6 million in new state funding under the new state’s new Homeless Emergency Aid Program.
In November, the City Council also approved a $400,000 package of additional mitigation measures, including a new disposal truck and a trash collection crew that will be dedicated to cleaning up after homeless camps.
If you see a homeless person being victimized or committing a crime, call 911. Within the Sacramento City limits, you can report homeless camps by calling the City’s 311 Service Center or submitting an online request through the website or the 311 app.
If you are interested in volunteering your time or donating, here is a list of organizations serving the homeless in Sacramento:
Sacramento Steps Forward; Sacramento Self Help Housing; Cottage Housing; St. John’s Program for Real Change; El Hogar Community Services; Salvation Army; Family Promise; TLCS; Loaves and Fishes; Tubman House; Lutheran Social Services; Volunteers of America; Mercy Housing; WEAVE; Mutual Housing California; Wind Youth Services; Next Move; Women’s Empowerment
For more opportunities visit Hands on Superior NorCal.