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Gov. Newsom taps Mayor Steinberg to lead new California commission on homeless

Here’s what it’s like trying to count Sacramento’s homeless at night

Volunteers participate in the point in time count homeless census in Sacramento on Wednesday night, Jan. 30, 2019 near the American River.
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Volunteers participate in the point in time count homeless census in Sacramento on Wednesday night, Jan. 30, 2019 near the American River.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday appointed Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg to lead a new state commission focused on the state’s homeless crisis.

“Mayors, county supervisors and city councils around the state are working hard to reduce homelessness and its underlying causes. But we’ve got to have their backs. They cannot do it alone,” Newsom said during his State of the State address at the Capitol. “So to help lead the discussion ... I’m appointing Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg to a new Commission on Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Thank you, Mayor Steinberg, for your willingness to step up and step in to this debate and to lead our efforts.”

Newsom proposed the state allocate $500 million for “navigation centers,” or emergency shelters with services on site. He also proposed another $100 million for “whole person care” services to homeless people.

“Working together, we can make a demonstrable difference in an epidemic of homelessness in our state. This is California’s most pressing humanitarian, public health and economic threat,” Steinberg said in a news release from the Steinberg Institute, a nonprofit focused on mental health issues founded by the mayor. “As mayor of a major city, I’m deeply aware of the toll our homelessness crisis is taking on our police officers, our business owners and our neighborhoods; how it tears at the fabric of our community. With the Governor’s support, I am confident we can and will make a difference across our state.”

Steinberg’s work for the state commission will be unpaid, the release said.

Last winter, the city opened a large triage shelter in north Sacramento on Railroad Drive. It’s the first large shelter in the city that does not turn people away for having drugs or alcohol in their systems, and also lets them bring pets, partners and possessions. Shelter residents receive mental health and medical services, as well as help removing the barriers they face in finding permanent housing.

The city last week set aside $36 million toward addressing homelessness. The money includes nearly $16 million from the city, about $12 million from the state and about $8 million in private funds that Steinberg has raised or plans to raise.

Steinberg has said he wants to use the money to fund multiple new triage shelters. The City Council will decide how to spend it at a meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

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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.
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