Sacramento finds more beds for homeless

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011 - 6:58 am

With frigid nights gripping the area, Sacramento city officials have come up with nearly 60 additional shelter beds for homeless men and women.

The new beds are the result of a meeting last week between City Council members Steve Cohn and Jay Schenirer, along with homeless advocates, members of the faith community and downtown business leaders.

Officials said they were prompted to find more beds as a tent city just north of downtown near the American River, now with 150 campers, continues to grow. A city ordinance makes such camps illegal.

"The police have leafleted the area, and we know it's a situation that can't continue there because of the environment and the law," said Schenirer, who recently toured the encampment. "As we do triage, at least we have recommendations of where people can go."

Not all of the new beds have been funded for the entire winter season, but Schenirer, Cohn and other members of the City Council said they would help raise the money needed to keep the shelters open.

Of the beds, 40 will be in motels and paid for through a motel voucher program. Money is being shifted from the March budget for the program, which will double in size as a result of the added beds.

Another 17 beds are being added to the Winter Sanctuary program, in which churches shelter the homeless during winter months. With the new beds, 117 homeless men and women are able to stay in houses of worship every night.

"This immediate step by the city will help relieve a trying situation," Cohn said.

Schenirer had called the meeting with Cohn and others to discuss the city's long-term homeless strategy.

Schenirer also wants to discuss the issue of creating a city-sanctioned homeless camp, known as "safe ground," that would act as a transitional housing facility, but that topic did not come up during last week's meeting.

"I'm committed to continue meeting with (safe ground advocates) and trying to find a location," Schenirer said.

So far, Schenirer and Mayor Kevin Johnson are the only elected officials at City Hall who have voiced their support of a homeless safe ground.

Homeless advocates are exploring two potential sites: one near Del Paso Boulevard and the American River Parkway, the other off Watt Avenue in North Highlands.

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