The Homeless

City pivots on plan for large permanent homeless shelter in North Sacramento

A homeless shelter that has been operating on an industrial street in North Sacramento likely will close at the end of May, and the city of Sacramento is pivoting back to a plan to open a large permanent shelter near a light-rail station in the Woodlake neighborhood.

City officials in March sent a letter of intent to Regional Transit indicating its interest in buying property on Evergreen Street, near the Royal Oaks light-rail station, for $190,000, the mayor's office said Friday. Regional Transit spokeswoman Devra Selenis said RT “staff is currently analyzing the specifics” of the letter and that the RT board of directors will discuss the offer at its May 14 meeting.

If the RT board agrees to move forward with the city, the sides will have 90 days to negotiate a purchase agreement for the site. The City Council has not identified a funding source for the purchase, nor has it put together the money needed to convert the space into a homeless shelter and operate the facility.

While still in its early stages, the plan already is opposed by Councilman Allen Warren, who represents North Sacramento.

Warren said he opposes a permanent shelter being opened near Woodlake until the city puts together "a comprehensive plan that has real locations citywide" for other shelters. That sentiment has been echoed by neighborhood residents, who have wondered why wealthier parts of the city aren't also being asked to host homeless shelters.

"I feel like District Two is continually looked upon for solving the city's toughest issues, and the burden is always being placed on the district," Warren said. "I think we need to see a more equitable solution and a comprehensive solution before I would consider any support for a facility that would be placed in or around District Two."

Mayor Darrell Steinberg was unavailable for comment, but said through a spokeswoman that his preference is to keep the Railroad Drive shelter open. However, the mayor said he has been unable to negotiate a deal with the property owner to keep the facility, known as the "winter triage shelter," in place beyond the end of May.

Steinberg told Woodlake residents at a town hall meeting last month that the permanent-shelter plan at Royal Oaks was off the table and that he preferred keeping the shelter on nearby Railroad Drive open indefinitely. He also said he would like to find two other locations elsewhere in the city to house large numbers of homeless men and women.

On Friday, Steinberg said “we will never have more than one triage shelter in one part of town at a time.”

“We are just keeping our options open,” he said through his spokeswoman, Mary Lynne Vellinga, about the letter of intent.

Woodlake residents have expressed ongoing concern about the prospect of a permanent shelter near the Royal Oaks station.

Larry Glover-Meade, president of the Woodlake Neighborhood Association, said he expects strong opposition among residents of the area to the plan.

“Given the city's repeated promises that they were looking at other neighborhoods for the permanent shelter, I find this shocking,” he said. “A case could be made for putting it in that location, but for the city to pursue it without any real outreach or dialogue is unacceptable.

“We want to be part of the solution," Glover-Meade added. "But to once again put something like this in an under-served area is inhumane and unjust. I don’t understand why other parts of the city aren't carrying some of the burden. Why don't we get the respect that other neighborhoods do? Our compassion is getting exploited.”

It's unclear how much it would cost to operate the shelter near the light-rail station. A city staff report last year indicated the shelter on Evergreen Street would need up to $2.6 million in upfront costs to get it ready to house residents. Steinberg has said he wants to raise $20 million from the private sector for homeless services, including paying for more shelters.

The city has spent roughly $400,000 a month to operate the 200-bed "triage" shelter on Railroad Drive since it opened in December. That price tag has included social services, portable showers and extra police patrols in the area.

City officials reported in March that crime around the shelter had dropped dramatically and that the facility had served dozens of hard-to-reach individuals, including those with pets and some who had been living outside for years.

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