Hope for hospice

Some in Alkali Mansion Flats wanted City Hall to steer Joshua’s House to a different part of town

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the May 24, 2018, issue.

People upset over a homeless hospice facility planned in Sacramento’s River District got an emphatic reply from elected officials and public speakers at City Hall last week: Deal with it.

On May 15, the City Council voted unanimously to approve the project, known as Joshua’s House, and deny an appeal by the Alkali Mansion Flats Historic Neighborhood Association. The hospice, which the city’s planning and design commission approved in April, is slated to transform a historic warehouse at 1501 North C Street into a 20-bed bastion for terminally ill people living outdoors.

During a presentation to the council, founder Dr. Marlene von Friederichs-Fitzwater noted that one-to-three people experiencing homelessness die on the streets of Sacramento each week and that the homeless face mortality rates three-to-four times that of the general population.

Councilman Jeff Harris, who motioned to deny the appeal, said he knew of three people in his district who’d experienced such anonymous endings in the past year. “When they perish in the bushes, quite frankly, that belongs to all of us,” Harris said.

No council members spoke against the project. Fifteen of the 17 people who spoke during public comment were in support of it. “The only problem I have is this should’ve been done years ago in Sacramento,” said resident Robert Coplin.

Neighborhood association president Sean Wright said he generally supported the project but questioned its location. “This is a project that could go anywhere in the city and should go anywhere,” Wright told the council. “It shouldn’t be relegated to a portion of the city that’s been dedicated just for homeless services.”

If Wright or anyone else sues the city under the California Environmental Quality Act in the next 30 days, they could face a stiff defense as Joshua’s House has pro bono support from the powerful North State Building Industry Association, as well as the Thomas Law Group, which specializes in CEQA cases.