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Sacramento homeless shelter will stay open at least 3 more months during summer heat

The city's controversial homeless triage shelter on Railroad Drive will remain open for at least three more months and possibly longer, thanks to financial contributions from Sutter Health and a private foundation, Mayor Darrell Steinberg told The Bee on Monday.

In the meantime, the city is exploring the possibility of erecting three large "Sprung structures," which resemble oversized tents, to serve as more permanent shelters for homeless men and women.

Sutter Health has committed $1 million toward keeping the triage center open through the end of August, said Keri Thomas, the hospital group's vice president of external affairs. The family of Helene and David Taylor also made a "generous" donation toward the effort, said Steinberg. The shelter had been scheduled to close May 31.

The Railroad Drive shelter in North Sacramento is an innovation for the city. The facility offers beds, bathroom facilities and meals for as many as 200 people at a time. It is a "low barrier" shelter that is open to homeless people regardless of whether they are clean and sober, and residents can bring in their possessions, pets and partners. It also offers a wide array of services designed to connect homeless people with health care, insurance and permanent housing.

Despite some outcry from neighborhood residents who have argued that the shelter has drawn more homeless people to the area, the city has declared the shelter a success. The mayor has said it is a key element of his promise to get 2,000 people off of the streets by 2020.

About 300 people have enrolled in the shelter since December, and 139 were living at the facility as of last week. Seventy-nine people had moved on to stable housing, either in apartments, transitional living homes or with family members, the city reports.

"We're getting some of the most difficult, intractable homeless people off of the streets and the riverbanks," said Steinberg.

"I've said it before. We are not closing this thing without a fight. We're just not doing it, because it's working."

Larry Glover-Meade, president of the Woodlake Neighborhood Association, accused the mayor of misleading North Sacramento residents about the shelter, which originally was supposed to operate only through the winter.

"Yet again, the mayor and the city manager's office have lied to us about what is happening," he said. "We were assured that the shelter was closing in May. The city refuses to work with us as partners, and it's completely frustrating."

"We've been asking for months, 'What is the citywide response to the homeless crisis? Are the city's poor areas destined to burden the responsibility for the entire city? We all need to play a part."

Steinberg has said his office is receiving fewer complaints about the facility. He said data makes it clear that the approach is changing lives and improving the community.

"It's not perfect," the mayor said of his plan. "I'm not proclaiming that this is entirely curable. I'm asking for some patience. I'd rather invest in smart things, even if the results aren't immediate."

Thomas of Sutter Health said the city and its partners are "building a new system of care" for homeless people, "and that takes time."

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