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Homeless tent camp could open near baseball fields in north Sacramento park

Sacramento City Councilman Allen Warren talks to homeless camper about the possibility of a tent city

Sacramento City Councilman Allen Warren, whose north Sacramento district has many homeless campers, is pushing for the city to relax its ban on overnight camping.
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Sacramento City Councilman Allen Warren, whose north Sacramento district has many homeless campers, is pushing for the city to relax its ban on overnight camping.

A vacant grassy stretch near baseball fields in the north Sacramento area could soon become a homeless tent city under a plan before the City Council.

Sacramento Councilman Allen Warren said Monday he has approval from the city to use approximately 2 acres of fields near Carl Johnston Community Center south of Strawberry Manor for a temporary tent city that could house up to 200 people for four months.

Warren has long championed the idea but faces potential opposition from some on the City Council, including Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who has stressed a permanent housing focus for homelessness.

In March, Steinberg told Warren he would consider the proposal if Warren nailed down a site and presented a budget and operating plan. Warren said he has those items, and will ask the City Council to allow him to open an “enhanced living and triage community” in coming weeks.

The compound would include barracks-style tents that sleep eight people each, along with communal spaces, restrooms, areas for pets and storage so people can securely leave their belongings. Support services such as medical care and counseling would be available.

Warren said the goal would be to stabilize the lives of residents enough that they can move into more permanent housing before the camp closes in 120 days.

“This is a test to see how a stable living environment can help get people back up on their feet,” said Warren.

The Del Paso Youth Baseball league has not used the Johnston Park diamonds in two years, according to a staff report. The soccer fields are seldom used, but an adult soccer league called Liga Halcones holds practices there.

Warren will likely ask council for about $180,000 and said he expects donations to fill out the remaining budget. The monthly cost could be slightly more than $100,000 per month for 150 people, according to a report prepared by Warren’s office. That comes out to about $22 per day, per resident, including the cost of providing case workers.

Phyllis Burden, a member of the Strawberry Manor Neighborhood Association, said she had been in contact with Warren about the proposal and supported it – as long as it was a temporary path toward permanent housing.

“We’d like to see (the homeless) in a place where they can be in a safe zone as opposed to hanging off the side of the freeway and under the freeway,” Burden said. “You have to get them someplace stable where you can bring the doctor and the dentist and the mental health.”

If the proposal is approved, Warren would need to permits from the city, including clearance from fire and police departments. Warren said he expects to partner with First Step Communities, a local nonprofit service provider, to run the daily operations.

Steinberg spokeswoman Kelly Rivas said that the mayor was “open for discussion” about the camp but will also ask for discussion of other indoor temporary options.

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa

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