The case for homeless shelters

Site next to RT station makes a lot of sense

Jay Schenirer represents District 5 on the Sacramento City Council.

Jay Schenirer represents District 5 on the Sacramento City Council.

Sacramento has a crisis. We don’t need a formal census to see that the number of people living outdoors under our freeways, on our streets and in our parks has grown. This epidemic threatens not only our collective economic future, but our core values as a community.

Inaction is not an option.

The City Council, led by Mayor Darrell Steinberg, has committed to locating at least 100 shelter beds in each council district. My colleagues and I are pursuing different approaches to reach this goal. In addition to finding feasible sites, one of the biggest challenges we face is winning neighborhood support. Many Sacramentans want to see homelessness addressed, but few want a shelter in their neighborhood.

Some fear that new shelters will attract more homeless people. But in truth, research shows that many of those living on the streets are in or near the neighborhoods where they grew up or previously lived.

They are our neighbors.

I have spent a lot of time searching for an appropriate shelter location in my district. After much consideration, I identified an underused Sacramento Regional Transit parking lot off Florin Road and Indian Lane as a potential site. The proposed shelter will house 100 adults who are living outdoors within two miles of the shelter site and who are directly referred by the city’s police outreach team.

The Regional Transit board is scheduled to debate this proposal on March 11, though a vote isn’t expected until at least March 25.

This shelter will not hurt the neighborhood, and in fact will address existing problems. It will be run by an experienced operator chosen by competitive bid. The city will focus on bringing in people from the surrounding neighborhood, not from elsewhere. Once indoors, residents will get the services and support they need to stabilize their lives and move into permanent housing.

All services, meals and sanitation facilities will be contained on site. The city will increase police patrols and fund a crew of homeless individuals who will clean the shelter site, nearby light rail station, and surrounding neighborhood. The shelter operator will be responsible for 24-hour security, and the city will lease a portable trailer for a RT transit officer sub-station next to the Florin light rail station.

Although the proposed shelter is intended for adults, we also are working with our schools, particularly nearby Luther Burbank High School and its Law and Social Justice Academy. The shelter can create learning opportunities and partnerships, especially for our young people, many of whom have experienced homelessness or who have friends or family experiencing homelessness.

I ran for City Council to improve our city and help meet the many challenges before us. Homelessness is a challenge that we must surmount if we are to be a successful community and create a city where all Sacramentans can thrive. Based on our experiences at the North Sacramento triage shelter, we have found a successful strategy to get people off the street and reclaim their lives. But first, we must provide the shelters.