The Homeless

Why neighbors say they appealed hospice that would comfort dying homeless people

'You need to help them until they're stable'

At a community meeting Thursday, March 1, 2018, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg made the case to expand shelter options.
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At a community meeting Thursday, March 1, 2018, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg made the case to expand shelter options.

A neighborhood association representing residents of the Alkali and Mansion Flats area near downtown Sacramento is fighting a plan to establish a hospice for homeless people who are facing imminent death.

The privately funded project, called Joshua's House, is being led by a retired associate professor at the UC Davis School of Medicine. It has been in the works for more than a year and received unanimous approval from the city's planning and design commission last month, said principal planner Evan Compton.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the project at 1501 N. C St. next week. But before the vote, it will hear an appeal from the Alkali and Mansion Flats Neighborhood Association.

In its notice of appeal, the association said the project is too vaguely defined to warrant approval.

Association spokesman Sean Wright said in an interview that the neighborhood "100 percent supports the concept of the project," but has concerns about a lack of public outreach and information about it. Wright also said the area has an outsized concentration of homeless services, including the nearby Loaves & Fish complex, that "are a detriment to the quality of life" of neighborhood residents.

Wright said he has received conflicting accounts of the size and scope of Joshua's House. "That's also a little problematic to me," he said.

Joshua House founder Marlene von Friederichs-Fitzwater said last year that she hoped to open the facility this fall. As depicted in architectural renderings shared with The Bee, the home is to have 16 to 20 beds and feature private rooms, an indoor garden, skylights, a library, a chapel and a kitchen.

The hospice would serve homeless people with cancers or other fatal illnesses who might otherwise die in alleyways or curled up on park benches.

The project, one of the first in its kind in the country, has received support from Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Councilman Jeff Harris and County Supervisor Phil Serna, among others. Sacramento hospitals also have pledged support and donated money.

At its meeting on Tuesday, the City Council expects to hear from Wright about the neighborhood group's objections, followed by a rebuttal from von Friederichs-Fitzwater.

"The council either will approve the project, or uphold the appeal and deny it," Compton said.