Sacramento to vote on large homeless shelters as mayor makes key change to Meadowview plan

The Sacramento City Council will Tuesday vote on whether to open a large homeless shelter along the W-X corridor, and also an amended proposal to open a women and children’s’ shelter in Meadowview.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg earlier this month proposed a 100-bed, tent-like shelter be erected on city property on Meadowview Road near the Pannell Community Center. Councilman Larry Carr, who represents the area, vehemently opposed the idea.

The shelter would have served the same population as the Railroad Drive shelter, which closed April 30 – chronically homeless men and women who have been living on the streets of south Sacramento for years.

Steinberg announced Monday the Meadowview shelter, if approved, would now exclusively serve chronically homeless women and their children. No adult men would be allowed.

Steinberg said he changed the proposal to a women and children shelter after hearing community concerns, and also learning startling data about the number of women and children on the streets in the city.

“I engaged with the community in a respectful way and took all the hard questions and I listened,” Steinberg said. “We began doing the most important thing people can do in this situation and that is look to the actual numbers and data.”

Researchers who worked on the latest census report of homeless people countywide estimate there are 137 chronically homeless single women with a disabling condition sleeping outdoors on any given night in the city of Sacramento, according to Arturo Baiocchi, Sacramento State researcher and professor. About 57 of the women are single parents, with an average number of 2.5 children, meaning an estimated 280 women and children are sleeping outdoors.

“There are 280 women and children who are out there on the streets who do not have any shelter open for this winter,” Steinberg said during a news conference Monday announcing the changed proposal.

The federal government defines a “chronically homeless” person as someone who has a disabling condition and has been continuously homeless for at least a year or has been homeless at least four times in the last three years.

The 100-bed tent-like structure would offer women and children medical, mental health and housing services, and allow them to bring their pets and possessions, Steinberg said. Women would not be turned away for having drugs or alcohol in their systems.

Homeless women and children in south Sacramento would be given first priority to be admitted in to the shelter, but it would also serve those from other areas of the city, said Mary Lynne Vellinga, Steinberg’s spokesman.

Councilman Larry Carr did not immediately return a call after the mayor’s news conference. Steinberg said Carr still opposes the shelter.

RoLanda Allaha Wilkins, who runs the nonprofit Earth Mama Healing in south Sacramento, said she supports the mayor’s shift to focus on the homeless people she sees as the most vulnerable.

“This is a ‘what about the children’ moment,” Wilkins said. “We have to have somewhere for our women and children to go and not just back to their cars or back to a hotel.”

Yolanda Stevenson, director of social services at Rose Family Creative Empowerment Center in Meadowview, said she was originally opposed to the shelter, but now strongly in favor of the new proposal.

Stevenson meets three to seven homeless women with children per day who come in to the center, she said. Many of them have to wait 90 days to three months to get a shelter bed, and more than a year to get affordable housing, she said.

If the City Council approves it, the Meadowview shelter will likely open sometime this winter, Steinberg has said.

Councilman Jay Schenirer said Monday the shelter at X Street and Alhambra Boulevard in his district won’t be open until April or May.

That shelter is still awaiting approval by Caltrans, which owns the grassy lot, but Schenirer said he does not anticipate that to be a problem.

The City Council will vote on both shelters during its meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Sacramento City Hall, 915 I St. The council will also vote on a plan to add rehousing services to 184 existing shelter beds; provide $1 million to two nonprofits to serve about 50 homeless women and children; and also discuss “safe parking zones.”

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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.