A plan by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg to shift federal housing vouchers to homeless people is being resisted by his fellow City Council members as government agencies decide how to issue the scarce affordable housing subsidies
Councilwoman Angelique Ashby on Thursday released an open letter to the mayor asking him to prioritize veterans, youths and families who are currently homeless or in imminent danger of becoming so for vouchers, above other homeless people.
Ashby said she supports the idea of using 1,600 federal vouchers to move homeless people from the streets to permanent shelter, but she doesn’t want those already on wait lists to be bumped.
“It needs to be done with balance,” she said.
Ashby said veterans, families and young adults “dominate” the existing list of 70,000 households currently waiting for one of 910 spots that open up each year in the county, and they “should not be left behind.”
She also asked Steinberg to roll out the program over three years rather than his suggested two in order to control costs and allow more time to evaluate the new approach.
The county controls the majority of the vouchers Steinberg wants to use, so he will need support from the Board of Supervisors to move forward. The board is scheduled to discuss the matter March 21, but it is unclear what it will do.
Supervisors Patrick Kennedy and Phil Serna expressed support for Steinberg’s idea during a joint city-county meeting in January, while Supervisors Sue Frost and Susan Peters remained noncommittal.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilman Allen Warren also challenged Steinberg by asking his colleagues to formally consider his plan to create a homeless tent camp in his Del Paso Heights-based district. Steinberg has pushed instead for permanent, long-term housing for homeless people and has generally opposed creation of a tent city.
Warren gave more details on a proposal he first floated in January, saying he had worked with City Manager Howard Chan to locate city-owned property in his district where up to 200 homeless people could live in “barrack-type tents.”
He described the effort as a pilot project funded by public and private money. He said he also wants his effort to include cleaning up levees, creeks and streets where homeless encampments have had the most impact.
Warren said permanent housing for homeless people is not “going to be the reality anytime soon” and that “multiple solutions” are needed now. The council is scheduled to discuss his plan March 21, when the SHRA plan is also scheduled for debate.
“Time is not our friend in this,” Warren said. “It’s just really important that in these desperate times we do all we can.”
Steinberg said Thursday he would accept Ashby’s recommendations, saying they were “constructive,” and he would support them as a “principled compromise” that would still allow him to move forward with his plan.
Steinberg said Warren was acting “in good faith,” but that indoor shelters in North Sacramento would remain his preference.
SHRA is expected to release its recommendation on voucher priority Friday and discuss it at a 6 p.m. Wednesday meeting at its downtown office.