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Sacramento takes step toward opening homeless shelter on Cal Expo property

Sacramento took a step Tuesday toward opening a homeless shelter at a Cal Expo-owned site near the intersection of Ethan and Hurley ways.

The Sacramento City Council voted unanimously to authorize city staff to move ahead with plans for the 100-bed triage shelter in a tent-like structure, proposed by Councilman Jeff Harris. Councilwoman Angelique Ashby was not present for the vote.

The shelter’s design, construction and operations would cost about $9.4 million for two years, funded by the state and Measure U reserves, according to a city staff report.

City staff and Cal Expo staff are in negotiations for a potential lease for the property, which would need council approval separately. After an agreement is reached, the shelter would be able to open in about six months said Emily Halcon, the city’s homeless services coordinator.

Cal Expo currently uses the lot, located near the RV park, for vehicles and trailers to load and unload equipment and supplies during shows.

It could be the first of two 100-bed homeless shelters located in Harris’ district. The shelter would have the same services as the city’s other homeless shelter on Railroad Drive, where guests receive medical and mental health services, as well as help finding housing. Unlike most shelters in the area, people are not turned away for having drugs or alcohol in their systems. They can also bring their pets, partners and possessions.

“I believe we are charting a course that will move us in to a better position as a city,” Harris said.

Councilman Allen Warren, whose district is near both shelters, said he supported the new site, but wants to see shelters in other areas of the city.

“I do believe they need to be spread throughout the region, not just in north Sacramento,” Warren said.

Councilman Larry Carr said he will support the shelter, but raised concerns that the city’s Railroad Drive shelter is too expensive and has not resulted in enough people being housed.

In its first 14 months, 147 people got into permanent housing after leaving Railroad Drive while 55 went to temporary housing, mostly in other shelters, according to city data.

Harris said the new shelters will not be as costly to run per month as Railroad Drive.

Councilman Steve Hansen said he plans to announce a potential shelter site in his district – which includes midtown, downtown and Land Park – in the coming weeks.

Councilman Jay Schenirer has proposed two shelter sites in his district for 100-bed Sprung tents – one in the Florin light rail station parking lot and one in a Caltrans-owned lot near where X Street runs into Alhambra.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg said he hopes the council can vote to approve those two sites, as well as Hansen’s, at its April 23 meeting.

The council also approved Tuesday using $300,000 in Measure U funds to add four more employees to the city’s homeless services division.

Steinberg in December asked all council members to find shelter sites in their districts. The council last month approved using $15.7 million in Measure U reserve funds to address homelessness. That money would be joined by about $12 million in state funds and $8 million private funds to open nearly 800 new shelter beds.

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Theresa Clift covers Sacramento City Hall. Before joining The Bee in 2018, she worked as a local government reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Daily Press in Virginia and the Wausau Daily Herald in Wisconsin. She grew up in Michigan and graduated from Central Michigan University.