Balancing need with economics

Supervisor Roger Dickenson
District 1

The recent SN&R Editorial “Sweet Charity,” (April 12), concerning homeless housing at McClellan, was unfortunately inaccurate and incomplete. The 1994 Homeless Assistance Act requires Sacramento County to balance homeless assistance needs with the community’s economic development.

First, contrary to the Editorial’s assertion, the county did not award the McClellan Inn to Sacramento Cottage Housing (SCH).

Instead, in August 1998, the county and SCH signed an agreement to explore four alternatives: (1)The county can enter into a lease with SCH for the property as requested, or for a substantially equivalent alternative property at McClellan. (2) The county can lease or convey property of substantial equivalence at an off-site location. (3)The county can offer funding that is substantially equivalent to the value of the original request. (4)The county and SCH can agree on any other mutually acceptable result.

It was understood from the outset that any homeless requests would be subject to further evaluation during the development of the reuse plan for the base. Several charities made requests and SCH, WIND Youth Center and Sacramento Food Bank Services were approved for further consideration.

In the initial reuse plan, a citizens’ advisory committee and the board enthusiastically endorsed the concept of a conference center at McClellan Inn and the opportunities it would present for hosting a variety of different conventions, conferences, retreats and meetings.

Second, SN&R raised concerns about a review of financial viability for the homeless proposals. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees compliance with the Homeless Assistance Act, requires determination of whether a requesting organization can meet both its operating and capital expenditures for the property.

This review is particularly crucial, because, as we learned at Mather Air Force Base, many months and millions of dollars can be required to bring housing units up to current building code standards.

Since military construction is exempt from local building codes, fire safety, and infrastructure standards, the conversion of military housing and office space to meet Americans with Disabilities Act and building codes is very costly.

The county remains acutely aware of the needs of the homeless in our community, and our homeless programs, such as the Mather Campus Project HOPE, attest to our commitment.

As it always has been, the county remains committed to accommodating the requests of Sacramento Cottage Housing, the WIND Youth Center and Sacramento Food Bank Services, consistent with the 1998 agreement.