The Homeless

Controversial homeless ‘triage’ shelter may stay open beyond winter, officials say

Here’s a look inside the North Sacramento homeless shelter

The first 50 of about 200 homeless people occupying a shelter on Railroad Drive in North Sacramento arrived Friday, Dec. 8. The shelter has sparked controversy among nearby residents and business owners.
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The first 50 of about 200 homeless people occupying a shelter on Railroad Drive in North Sacramento arrived Friday, Dec. 8. The shelter has sparked controversy among nearby residents and business owners.

City leaders are strongly considering extending the controversial North Sacramento winter homeless shelter beyond its planned closing date of March 31, officials confirmed Thursday.

The shelter, on Railroad Drive near Del Paso Boulevard, was presented at community meetings as a temporary place to allow homeless men and women to escape the cold weather. A second, more permanent shelter has been under discussion for a different location less than a mile away.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg said the city had hoped to have a permanent shelter at the nearby Royal Oaks light-rail station open by the time the Railroad Drive facility closed, allowing for a smooth transition for those seeking shelter in the area. But that appears unlikely, and the mayor said a timing gap between the facilities would be “unacceptable.”

“I am guided by one principle: Under no circumstances will we allow 200 human beings to return to homelessness and desperation,” Steinberg said. “We are considering all options to meet that principle.”

The City Council will discuss the shelter operation at its Feb. 27 meeting.

Councilman Allen Warren, who represents the residential neighborhoods near the shelter, has scheduled a March 1 community meeting in his North Sacramento district to discuss the possibility of the shelter remaining open.

Warren said he is open to extending the shelter’s run, “but I want to make sure our community is given due consideration” because keeping the facility open beyond March “was not what was sold to the community.”

“I don’t want to walk into the March 1 meeting with a decision already made,” he said. “I want to have a comprehensive discussion before I make a decision.”

The large “triage” shelter, the first of its kind in Sacramento, has a maximum capacity of 200 people. It opened in early December despite concerns from neighborhood residents who said they feared it would bring more problems to a neighborhood already plagued by poverty and homelessness. Residents also said all neighborhoods should share the burden of housing homeless people.

As of last week, 197 people were living at the shelter, along with dozens of pets. More than 260 men and women have spent time in the program since its opening, said Emily Halcon, the city’s homeless services coordinator. The facility is open for 24 hours a day, and provides residents with showers, meals, veterinary services, and help in locating housing and social services.

Some residents have said the shelter has attracted more homeless people to the area, and complained of a lack of promised transparency by city officials.

“I’m truly disappointed in the city,” said David Plag, executive director of the Del Paso Boulevard Partnership. “The city stated to the entire North Sacramento community that this shelter would close at the end of March. I envisioned that people living at this shelter would be transferred to the permanent facility” at another location. “Now, it looks like this shelter will stay open indefinitely.”

Larry Glover-Meade of the Woodlake Neighborhood Association called the development “shocking and infuriating.”

“It’s very frustrating that the city hasn’t communicated this at all to nearby community members,” he said. “I think many who live nearby could have supported keeping it open, but the city didn’t talk with us at all. After countless reassurances that the winter shelter would definitely close, it’s pretty frustrating that they aren’t fulfilling their promises.”

City officials are still working toward opening a permanent shelter near the Royal Oaks light-rail station in the Woodlake neighborhood. That shelter would be opened near a site where a Southern California developer is planning to build an affordable housing complex.

Cynthia Hubert: 916-321-1082, @Cynthia_Hubert

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