Timeline to help

City of Sacramento and housing authority are finally showing their math on one of their most elaborate shelter strategies in years

This story has been extended from its print edition.

City leaders recently unveiled their projected timeline for launching a five-point homeless shelter strategy, one they say could house roughly 850 people by June.

The plan, which some council members have been fine-tuning for months, was ultimately solidified in a joint effort by City Manager Howard Chan and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. SHRA executive director La Shelle Dozier told the council Dec. 3 that the strategy is to leverage $8.5 million in local funds in the first few months of the year, and then $22.5 million in state funds, which her agency can draw on by spring.

“We looked at … what could be launched as soon as possible,” Dozier said.

According to the plan, the city and SHRA will open a parking lot where 20 families can sleep in their vehicles sometime in January. Next, officials will focus on securing “scattered site” shelters for women with children, housing about 150 families in apartments through a special voucher system. Dozier said that could be done by March. A proposed shelter would open in Meadowview in April, housing 100 individuals, followed a month later by one in the Broadway-Alhambra corridor.

Additionally, the city plans to engage in another motel-to-shelter conversion by June, making space for 100 more individuals.

Finally, the city will also try to find a site for some 50 sleeping cabins. Stephen Watters, executive director of First Step Communities, who has long advocated interim housing communities, told council members that they were on the right track.

“I think we’re going to have an opportunity to see what works best, and what works best for certain populations,” Watters said.

But outgoing Councilman Larry Carr, whose district includes Meadowview, continued to criticize the approach.

“When I went to the Railroad Avenue shelter I was horrified,” Carr said of a shelter the city opened in 2017 in North Sacramento. “It didn’t look like America, it looked like a third-world country that I’d been to many times before. People were crowded in, there were dogs barking, there was no privacy. … There were people outside who were selling drugs to people in the shelter.” Carr added that he still hadn’t been given a concrete answer on whether the city would enforce certain rules around its shelters, such as banning drugs or people “screaming” at neighborhood residents.

Citing the fact that the new Capitol Park Hotel shelter has already reportedly gotten 26 individuals into permanent housing, Mayor Darrell Steinberg again pushed back against Carr’s assessment.

“There were a lot of people who were re-housed out of Railroad Avenue and brought off the streets,” Steinberg replied. “I disagree, respectfully, with your characterization of that experience.”